John Drury dies

A melancholy happy trails to John Drury. The former WBBM-TV, WLS-TV and WGN-TV news anchor who retired in 2002, lost his battle with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He died last night at the age of 80.

Drury got his started in television at Milwaukee’s WTMJ, where he was a staff announcer. He began anchoring the news at the station shortly thereafter.

He came to Chicago in 1962, as a reporter for WBBM. He later joined WGN’s newscasts in 1967, shifted to WLS in 1970, back to WGN in 1980, and finally returning to WLS for another stint in 1984, where he co-anchored the market’s top-rated 10 p.m. newscast until his retirement in 2002.

John Drury’s return to WLS in 1984 was part of a turnaround strategy at the station instituted by then-general manager Dennis Swanson – bringing familiar faces to the station’s newscasts in order to boost ratings. WLS was mired in last place in news at the time.

The move finally paid off in 1986, when the anchor team of John Drury and Mary Ann Childers knocked WBBM’s Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson out of the number one slot at 10 p.m. With a few exceptions, WLS has been at the top ever since.

The final work he performed for WLS was on September 10, 2002, when he hosted a prime-time special on how Chicago changed after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

– Here is the obituary for John Drury on WLS’ website.

– John Drury’s death comes twenty years to the day another Chicago icon passed away – Mayor Harold Washington, Chicago’s first African-American mayor – died in office. Mr. Drury was at WLS-TV co-anchoring the station’s 10 p.m. newscast at the time.