BOB HUFFAKER broadcast the JFK motorcade, then the sad scene at Parkland Hospital. He broadcast television’s first murder on CBS from the police garage when Jack Ruby shot Lee Oswald, then interviewed the slain assassin’s mother and other principals in the case. He was a Warren Commission witness, and he covered Ruby’s murder trial and finally his death. Huffaker’s courtroom interview with Ruby won the Texas Association of Broadcasters award, among others, and he was editor of his and his colleagues’ broadcasts that won the RTNDA’s 1963 national award for on-the-spot reporting.
Huffaker produced an early documentary on Texas Black Muslims that drew national attention. A former Army officer and policeman, he specialized in investigative reporting.
He left broadcasting in 1967, earned the Ph.D. and taught as an English professor until 1980, when, as investigator for the Texas Legislature, he exposed his former department at Southwest Texas State University for falsifying class records. In 2004, that university, now Texas State University, inducted him into its University Star hall of fame for his defense of press freedom when he taught there and headed its student publications committee from 1974 through 1980.
In the 1980s, Huffaker was a Texas Monthly editor, having served as an editor of Studies in the Novel, Studies in American Humor, and The Modern Humanities Research Association Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature. His book John Fowles (G.K. Hall & Co, 1980) is still cited as seminal scholarship about the novelist’s work. In addition to Texas Monthly, Huffaker’s work has appeared in Southern Humanities Review, The Dallas Observer, True West, Senior Beacon, and Texas Parks & Wildlife.
Huffaker lives with his wife, Veva Vonler, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where they both write and study nature, history, literature and cinema. Their son Kevin Huffaker is a sculptor and specialist in greenhouse design near San Marcos, Texas, and their son Zachary Vonler, a computer programmer and software designer, is serving in the US Navy.
BILL MERCER stood vigil at Dallas Police headquarters and confronted Lee Oswald in a bizarre press showing on the midnight after the assassination, and he informed the assassin that police had charged him with the president’s murder. Mercer remained a gentleman among the rowdy mob of reporters.
Mercer walked among flowers at the assassination site and reported words of sympathy on wreaths—and on the minds of those who gathered to express spontaneous emotion at JFK’s murder. His respectful and articulate reporting was dignified and moving in that atmosphere of crisis and grief.
In a career that spans a half-century, Mercer has been a sports broadcast pioneer, serving as the voice of the Dallas Cowboys, Chicago White Sox, Texas Rangers, University of North Texas Eagles, and the Cotton Bowl. He is also a versatile journalist, professor, and author of a history of the Navy LCI: combat landing craft on which he served in the Pacific during World War II.
Mercer is a member of the Texas Radio Hall of Fame, baseball’s Texas All-Pro’s Hall of Fame, and the University of North Texas Athletic Hall of Fame, to name a few halls that honor him. He is still professor of radio and television at the University of North Texas.
He and his wife, Ilene Hargis Mercer, live in the North Dallas suburban home where they raised four children. They have five granddaughters.
Mercer is active in amateur theater, and one claim to his fame is his prominent career as announcer of professional wrestling. He joined KRLD in 1953 to broadcast live television wrestling, and that peculiar role went on for decades, earning him a large and enthusiastic following. As quirky as it may sound, Bill Mercer’s wrestling broadcasts became the most popular television show in, of all places, Israel. And for a while, Bill and the Von Erich wrestling family were Israel’s leading television personalities.
Mercer was a regular on Comment, Dallas’ first radio talk show—one of the nation’s first to accept listeners’ calls and feature prominent guests: from Dr. Edward Teller to Colonel Harlan Sanders.
GEORGE PHENIX has spent his life in press and politics. After leaving KRLD News, George returned to Austin as a boy lobbyist for the Texas Municipal League, where he wrote speeches and television shows for a number of political figures, including Governor Preston Smith. Congressman J.J. Pickle recruited him to run his Washington office, where Phenix wrote more than 250 speeches for the legislator in a single year. After four years in the nation’s capitol, he returned to Texas as Executive Assistant to US Senator Lloyd Bentsen.
After a career as film-maker, speech writer, and political consultant, Phenix published several weekly newspapers in and around Austin. He co-founded Texas Weekly, the state’s oldest and largest political newsletter, and for more than twenty years he has served as its publisher.
Phenix, an avid bicyclist, invited his four children to join him on a twenty-six-mile ride to celebrate his sixtieth birthday. They allowed him to come in third, and he plans rematches.
WES WISE is another pioneer of sports broadcasting. In the 1940s and 1950s, he was a well-known baseball play-by-play announcer for the nationwide Liberty Broadcasting System. He was Southwest Correspondent for Sports Illustrated, and his writing appeared in Time and Life.
Wise served the U.S. Army as instructor in Psychological Warfare Schools at Fort Riley, Kansas, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
As a journalist, he won numerous awards including three Press Club of Dallas “Katies” and the Southwest Journalism Forum award from Southern Methodist University for “continued excellence in journalism.”
Wes Wise was elected Mayor of Dallas in 1971, serving five years in that office after four as a city councilman. He was President of the Texas Municipal League and a board member of the US Conference of Mayors.
Wise continues to lecture at universities, including the University of Texas at Austin, Southern Methodist University, and Grambling University, as well as high schools in Texas and surrounding states.
He lives with his wife, Sally, on Cedar Creek Lake and divides time between there and Dallas, where he remains active in civic and political affairs.
Wes Wise touched more important developments of the assassination story than most reporters. As president of the Dallas Press Club, he greeted and escorted Adlai Stevenson at the day’s press conference before covering that night’s fateful attacks upon the UN Ambassador. After capturing the only newsfilm of that fiasco, Wise helped federal agents prepare JFK’s Dallas security for the next month’s visit. He covered the presidential motorcade, played a double role at the president’s aborted luncheon, encountered Jack Ruby the day before he shot Oswald, waited at the county jail for the Oswald transfer that went wrong, and testified for both sides in the Ruby trial.
In his five years as Dallas’ mayor, Wes Wise helped the city overcome its tarnished reputation. He not only reported this segment of history; he made some of it himself. As a reporter, he set records straight; as Dallas’ first independent mayor in decades, he helped the city toward racial equity, guided it through desegregation and the uneasy Sixties, fought to memorialize JFK’s life and death, and with support of Dallasites, pulled the city up from international disgrace.