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Harry Porterfield

Harry William Porterfield was born on August 29, 1928 in Saginaw, Michigan to Viola and Harry, Sr. After moving to Chicago, Illinois in 1964, he has gone on to become one of Chicago's best-loved media personalities, known for his series, Someone You Should Know.

Porterfield graduated from Saginaw's Arthur Hill High School in 1946 and then received an A.S. from Bay City Junior College in Bay City, Michigan. Although he enrolled in the University of Michigan, his studies were interrupted after just one year. In 1951, Porterfield was drafted by the Army. He served less than two years in Germany and attained the rank of Sergeant. In 1954, he earned a B.S. in chemistry from Eastern Michigan University at Ypsilanti.

Porterfield began his broadcasting career in 1955 when he joined Saginaw's radio station WKNX as a jazz disc jockey. He worked as a continuity editor, as well as a cameraman and stagehand at WKNX-TV. In 1964, Porterfield became a news writer at Chicago CBS affiliate WBBM-TV Channel 2. Eventually, he co-anchored the WBBM-TV news and created the Emmy Award-winning shows Channel Two: The People and Two on Two. Someone You Should Know, his most popular series, aired in 1977 for the first time.

In 1985, Porterfield left WBBM and became a reporter for WLS-TV Channel 7, an ABC affiliate station in Chicago. He continues to produce the profile series Someone You Should Know. Porterfield has won numerous awards over the course of his television career, including 10 Emmy Awards, the Columbia DuPont Journalism Award, the Studs Terkel Award and the Operation PUSH Media Fairness Award. He is a member of the Jazz Institute of Chicago and plays violin in the Chicago Bar Association Orchestra-he earned a J.D. in 1993 from DePaul University School of Law. He and his wife, Marianita, have four children.

Accession Number

A2002.090

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/21/2002

Last Name

Porterfield

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Arthur Hill High School

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Harry

Birth City, State, Country

Saginaw

HM ID

POR01

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Depends on audience

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Florida, Idlewild, Michigan

Favorite Quote

The Only Place Success Comes Before Work Is In The Dictionary.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Indiana

Birth Date

8/29/1928

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Gary

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Barbeque

Short Description

Television personality Harry Porterfield (1928 - ) created the television series, Someone You Should Know.

Employment

WKNX Radio

WKYC TV

WBBM TV

WLS TV

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Harry Porterfield's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Harry Porterfield lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Harry Porterfield talks about his mother's background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Harry Porterfield talks about his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Harry Porterfield describes his family's light complexion and their ability to "pass" for white

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Harry Porterfield describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Harry Porterfield describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Harry Porterfield describes his hometown of Saginaw, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Harry Porterfield describes the sights, smells, and sounds of growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Harry Porterfield describes growing up in his mostly white neighborhood of Saginaw, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Harry Porterfield describes himself as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Harry Porterfield talks about his experiences attending Fuerbringer Elementary School in Saginaw, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Harry Porterfield describes his feeling of inferiority going to elementary school with white children

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Harry Porterfield talks about his interest in music growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Harry Porterfield describes the radio programs he and his father listened to in his youth

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Harry Porterfield describes himself as a student in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Harry Porterfield talks about attending Bay City Junior College and the University of Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Harry Porterfield describes being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1951

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Harry Porterfield talks about serving in Germany in the U.S. Army in 1951

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Harry Porterfield talks about enrolling at Eastern Michigan University after being discharged from the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Harry Porterfield talks about visiting Idlewild, Michigan, after graduating from Eastern Michigan University in 1954

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Harry Porterfield talks about entering the broadcasting field, becoming a DJ at WKNX, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Harry Porterfield describes supporting himself with multiple jobs before entering T.V. broadcasting

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Harry Porterfield talks about selling and writing music for commercials

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Harry Porterfield talks about becoming a news writer for the CBS affiliate WBBM-TV Channel 2 in Chicago, Illinois in 1964

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Harry Porterfield talks about being one of the only African Americans in broadcast news in 1964 in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Harry Porterfield describes helping to produce the ten o'clock news at WBBM-TV Chicago

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Harry Porterfield talks about producing news for WBBM-TV in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Harry Porterfield talks about the process of becoming a news anchor in 1972

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Harry Porterfield describes learning the process of news writing and reporting while working as a broadcaster in the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Harry Porterfield describes his treatment as one of the few black men working at CBS-TV

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Harry Porterfield talks about anchoring a weekend news program and reporting for WBBM-TV in Chicago, Illinois in 1968

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Harry Porterfield describes an early news story he produced on 'Someone You Should Know,' in 1977

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Harry Porterfield talks about how 'Someone You Should Know' has changed since 1977

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Harry Porterfield describes memorable stories he produced on 'Someone You Should Know'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Harry Porterfield describes being inspired by the stories he produced at 'Someone You Should Know'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Harry Porterfield talks about co-anchoring the evening news on CBS in Chicago in 1979 with Bill Kurtis

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Harry Porterfield describes co-hosting CBS evening news with Don Craig and Bill Kurtis

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Harry Porterfield describes being demoted from his role as news anchor to accommodate Bill Kurtis' returned from New York in 1985

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Harry Porterfield describes being demoted from his anchor position at the CBS affiliate WBBM-TV Channel 2 in Chicago, Illinois when Bill Kurtis returned in 1985

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Harry Porterfield talks about the reaction from the black community to his demotion

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Harry Porterfield talks about moving to ABC Channel 7 in 1985

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Harry Porterfield describes the boycott and outrage in the black community subsequent to his firing at CBS Channel 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Harry Porterfield talks about transitioning to more success at ABC Channel 7 in 1985

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Harry Porterfield reflects on the changes made at CBS Channel 2 after his departure

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Harry Porterfield talks about attending DePaul University Law School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Harry Porterfield reflects on his career

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Harry Porterfield reflects on the changing nature of journalism

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Harry Porterfield talks about the role of music in his life

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Harry Porterfield describes his hopes and concerns for the black community

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Harry Porterfield describes what makes Chicago, Illinois unique

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Harry Porterfield talks about his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Harry Porterfield reflects on the work of The HistoryMakers

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Harry Porterfield narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$3

DAStory

2$9

DATitle
Harry Porterfield talks about entering the broadcasting field, becoming a DJ at WKNX, Michigan
Harry Porterfield talks about the process of becoming a news anchor in 1972
Transcript
Now how did you go and--well how did you go to WKNX [Now, WHHQ, Michigan]? How did that come about that doesn't--see you and Larry were hanging out--(simultaneous)?$$We're hanging out right. Well I had a friend who was on the police force at the time and he came to me one day and he said, "You know there's a radio station downtown looking for a part time disc jockey for two weeks and they need somebody who can fill in for two weeks and I thought of you, would you be interested?" I said, "Well, yeah I've never been at a radio station before; I don't know anything about broadcasting." He said, "Why don't you go down and talk to the guy." So I went to the radio station, WKNX and talked to the general manager, Howard Wolf and he hired me and he said you know there have been fourteen candidates who have come in here looking to fill this two week spot that we have, you're the only one I can understand who didn't have an accent. So I started on Valentine's Day, February 14, 1955, I think. Went on the air with the show, I remember Nat "King" Cole was one of the records I played. Nat "King" Cole thing and a couple of other things and that went on for a couple of weeks and I figured it would be over and then they came to me and said you know the guy who was supposed to take this job is not going to be able to do it. As it turned out the guy who had worked with the station and had convinced them that there should be some black programming on the station had wrote some bad checks. But he had been writing bad checks before he went to jail, he'd come out of jail, he wrote bad checks so he went back to jail, that was the end of it. So they asked me to stay. So I did this show every day, it was a half hour show called 'Sounds from the Lounge' and the name came from Eastern Michigan University. Because I remember above the entrance to the music school at Eastern Michigan and Ypsilanti [Michigan] was sounds from the lounge pertaining to the lounge where everybody practiced--rehearsed. So that's what I called my show and that show went on, I guess it lasted for nine years--doing that show. It was a jazz show; it was the only jazz show in the northern part of Michigan outside Detroit. I used to get--jazz promoters used to just pile up the records for me. I had my choice of what I wanted to play and it came--it was I guess a well listened to show. It was a lot of fun and I think during that period I began to change my mind about the direction I wanted to take. Chemistry was going further and further from my mind and this whole business about medicine. I could see that it was kind of fun to sit there at the radio behind a microphone and just dream up stuff and play records and create your own little environment there.$How did you move from producer, what was the move after that? How did you move into being an anchor, is that what happened?$$I became an anchor in about 1968/'69 [1969]. I used to anchor a weekend-the weekend-it was a Saturday at noon at a time that nobody was watching television and I used to do that. I became a full time anchor in 1972 but ahead of that the management gave us an opportunity, those of us who were writers to make a little extra money as reporters. And we would be freelance reporters and they sent us in the street and we'd do interviews-interviews primarily and if your face and voice got on the air, fifteen bucks, if your voice just got on the air then it's ten bucks. And those of us who were writers had the opportunity to make this extra money. I mean that's great, you do two or three stories a week; you would get sixty bucks, seventy dollars extra in your paycheck. So I started doing that and then I found myself doing more of it; going more in depth in stories and during that period television news was making a transition becoming far more sophisticated than it had been for a real long time. When I started a television reporter did nothing but interviews, he'd go out and interview somebody and he'd send back the film and you cut it and you put it on the air and there's an interview. But about the middle '60s [1960s] we began to get to the point that a reporter was beginning to do a complete story, one we call a package. You do the interview; you write some narration for the voice-overs, you know that kind of thing was beginning to happen. So I was beginning to do that and one of the reasons I was able to fall in to that situation as a reporter to go out and do a complete story with the voice over, narration and so forth was because I had been writing all these stories for these other guys for so long, been writing all these stories for the anchormen. So that wasn't difficult. As it turned out, I did less and less writing and more and more reporting. One a general manager came to me-no it was a news director who came to me and said I'm going to make you the weekend anchor, I'm just going to make you a weekend anchor, I said okay. So I began anchoring on Saturday and Sunday and-with some success. I understand the numbers began to go up on the weekends and we went up to number one on the weekends and that was the beginning of the anchor thing. I was not officially a talent or a reporter or an anchor until 1972. This was what--I started in '64 [1964], eight years--after eight years I got my first contract as a talent--as a reporter/anchor. Up until that time I was a rather skilled writer and even being on the air as a reporter, I was still in the writers' guild that was kind of nice to get away from that writing thing. I got tired of that because it kept in the office all the time and I like to get out and see stuff and do stuff, you know.