March 4, 2024

1962. Local Kansas City Boy Covers John Glenn Flight

Bill Downs from the U.S.S. Randolph
The recovery team stands on the U.S.S. Randolph for John Glenn's historic orbital spaceflight mission, February 20, 1962
From The Kansas City Kansan, March 2, 1962:
This and That Around Town

In the Telecast of the Historical Achievement of Col. John Glenn, Jr., a Local Boy Was on the First Team
"We take you now to the aircraft carrier, Randolph and Bill Downs."

It was Walter Cronkite, ace of the CBS staff speaking, as he directed coverage of the orbital flight of Col. John Glenn, Jr., on February 20.

To thousands of TV viewers the name "Bill Downs" meant merely another member of the first team that had been assigned to coverage of this historical event. To hundreds of local residents it meant Bill Downs, former schoolmate, close friend, good guy, crackerjack newspaperman and top-flight radio and television broadcaster.

Bill, whose rating in his profession would be comparable to Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle and some of the other select major leaguers, is the son of Mr. and Mrs. William Downs, [address]. Mr. Downs is a member and former chairman of the city civil service commission.

Bill served briefly on the staff of the Kansan, then joined the United Press as a reporter following his graduation from the University of Kansas in 1936. He was stationed at the Denver and New York bureaus before he was assigned to London.

It was in London that Bill met Edward R. Murrow, the famed Person to Person announcer, now doing a public information stint for the government. Murrow was impressed by Bill's ability as a reporter, his distinctive voice and his all-around radio qualifications.

Bill changed from writing about international events to telling about them and over a span of a quarter century has broadcast from Moscow, Rome—virtually every place in the globe. During the war he was assigned to the American and British armies in their far-flung battles.

A close friend of the late Clarence A. Mott, Bill and Clarence promoted presentation here that antedated the popular panel shows of today. It was at the Legion hall at Hiawatha and Quindaro.

Bill, home from a foreign assignment, was interviewed by the late Clyde Roberts, who, for years was assistant manager of the local news office of The Star and by a Kansan reporter. Later members of the Third Ward Republican club joined in the questioning.

Around the world assignments keep Bill on a constant alert and the demands of his job allow for only infrequent trips here. He visited with his parents Christmas Day.

As a member of the No. 1 team Bill will be heard from when big things are happening. It gives more meaning to the events to his many friends who can say:

"I know him. He's from Kansas City, Kansas."