Samuel J. English III, broadcaster

WBAL-TV staff announcer and weather forecaster later worked at MPT and Towson University

  • Jim English
Jim English (Baltimore Sun )
November 08, 2013|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Samuel J. English III, a former WBAL-TV staff announcer and weather forecaster who later held broadcasting positions at Maryland Public Television and Towson University, died Sunday of respiratory failure at his Pikesville home. He was 79.

"Jim was eloquent and absolutely good at what he did. He was a great broadcasting professional, and I've always admired him," said Donald Thoms, who had worked with Mr. English at WBAL-TV in the 1960s. "He was like no one else. He had a sharp wit and was well-seasoned, and he told great stories and always with a great flourish."

Samuel James English III, the son of Samuel James English Jr., a vice president of sales of earth-moving equipment, and Sarah Frances Broxterman, an administrative assistant, was born in Shamokin, Pa., and later moved to Harrisburg, Pa.

After graduating from John Harris High School in 1952, where he acted in school productions, Mr. English earned a bachelor's degree in English in 1956 from Duke University.

"He excelled as a student and as a thespian, crediting much of his love for the stage and for performing to his grandfather, a retired vaudevillian," said a son, James Michael English of Columbia, who is an executive producer at Maryland Public Television in Owings Mills.

Mr. English — whose on-air name throughout his career was Jim English — broke into broadcasting in 1956 as a disc jockey at WKBO-AM in Harrisburg, spinning records of such jazz artists as Stan Kenton, Dave Brubeck and Thelonius Monk.

"His radio shows enjoyed a large following, including his local sports program 'The Bear's Den,' a live postgame report produced after Hershey Bears hockey games played at the Hershey Arena," said his son.

In 1957, Mr. English's duties expanded when he began reporting news for the National Broadcasting Co. radio network, and covered many major breaking news stories for "NBC Radio Spot News Reports," such as the 1957 Lykens, Pa., coal mine cave-in.

He was also a correspondent for veteran NBC broadcaster Frank Blair's national weekly radio program "Life and the World," and during the early 1960s, covered the state legislature in Harrisburg, where he was a member of the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association.

In 1963, Mr. English left radio when he began reporting for WHP-TV in Harrisburg. A year later, after donning a filling station attendant's uniform and bow-tie of the Atlantic-Richfield Co., he became known as the "Atlantic Weatherman," the on-air representative of the gasoline company that sponsored the weathercast.

Mr. English retired his Atlantic-Richfield uniform when he moved to Baltimore in 1966 and went to work reporting the weather for WBAL-TV, as well as handling other announcing duties.

"Jim and I became great friends because we both worked the nightshift," said Mr. Thoms.

"Back when I was floor director, he was the weatherman, and back in the day, it was live weather and things happened; some of them were even hysterical," said Mr. Thoms. "If he did something to me, I'd get even by writing on the weather map, 'Your fly is open.' It was so small that the camera couldn't pick it up but Jim sure could see it, and then he'd tried not to laugh."

He added that Mr. English "kept you on your toes."

"When he was on the air, his voice came through as deep and eloquent, and when you're a weatherman, viewers need to trust you, and he knew what he had to give to his audience," said Mr. Thoms, who now works in Washington as vice president of programming for the Public Broadcasting Service.

Mr. English went on to work briefly as WJZ-TV's weekend weatherman before joining MPT in the mid-1970s as host of the national series "Aviation Weather."

In 1980, he became an adjunct professor in Towson University's mass communications department, and in addition to teaching, was general manager of the student-run WCVT-FM. He played a pivotal role in changing the station into today's more-viable public station, WTMD.

Mr. English retired in 1995.

The longtime Pikesville resident enjoyed woodworking and collecting clocks. He also wrote poetry and short stories.

Mr. English was a member of Grace United Methodist Church, 5407 N. Charles St., where a memorial service will be held at noon Saturday.

In addition to his son, Mr. English is survived by his wife of 57 years, the former Deborah Crudden; another son, S. James English IV of Pikesville; a daughter, Elizabeth P. Doud of Baltimore; a brother, David M. English of Gettysburg, Pa.; six grandchildren; and several nephews.

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