Harry Porterfield Obituary: Longtime Chicago news anchor Harry Porterfield passed away on October 24th, 2022 at the age of 95. Porterfield had an illustrious career spanning over 50 years in broadcast journalism, leaving behind an incredible legacy as a trailblazer for African American journalists in Chicago and beyond. Let’s take a look back at Porterfield’s groundbreaking career and the impact he had on the community.
Getting His Start in Broadcasting
Born in Saginaw, Michigan in 1928, Porterfield got his start working in radio and TV in his home state. He recounted his early experiences: “I became a stage hand for the television side. I ran cameras and set up the stage for Romper Room. I’d come in and do the 10 o’clock news; it was 11 o’clock in Michigan then.” This hands-on experience paved the way for his future broadcasting success.
Making the Move to Chicago
In 1964, Porterfield brought his talents to Chicago, joining WBBM as one of the first African American anchors in a major market. He spent over two decades at Channel 2, becoming a familiar face in Chicago homes. Porterfield recalled, “To think that I was a catalyst for that is really kind of overwhelming. But the impact it had was to create a lot of opportunities around the country and I guess that the one thing I’m really, I guess I’m proud of that because it did cause a lot of people to take another look at this business.”
Sparking an Industry Movement
When Porterfield left WBBM in the 1980s, it sparked a 10 month boycott of the station over the lack of African American anchors. This nationwide outcry led to greater inclusion and opportunities in broadcasting. As Porterfield put it: “It did cause a lot of people to take another look at this business and say there is some very deserving, very talented folks out there who can fill these jobs.”
Continuing His Career in Chicago
After leaving Channel 2, Porterfield spent over two decades at WLS, where he pioneered his famous “Someone You Should Know” segments. He loved profiling ordinary Chicagoans doing extraordinary things in the community. Reflecting on the segment’s legacy, he said: “To think that I was a catalyst for that is really kind of overwhelming. But the impact it had was to create a lot of opportunities around the country and I guess that the one thing I’m really, I guess I’m proud of that because it did cause a lot of people to take another look at this business.”
A Multi-Talented Renaissance Man
Beyond broadcasting, Porterfield had an incredible intellect. He held degrees in chemistry and law, and was an accomplished violinist who played with symphonies and musical groups around Chicago. As he put it, “So music has always been with me. I remember one of the conductors back home said one time, you know being involved with music is the most civilizing experience you can have. I thought about it and I thought, ‘You’re right. It does so much. It’s therapeutic. It’s civilizing. It does a lot of things. It makes you whole.”
A Pillar of the Chicago Community
Harry was beloved in Chicago, earning 11 Emmy awards and a DuPont award over his prolific career. He inspired young journalists like his granddaughter, Amanda Porterfield, who followed in his footsteps as a news anchor. Former colleagues describe Porterfield as a consummate professional and trailblazer who understood his responsibility as an African American pioneer in broadcasting.
A Legacy that Lives On
Though he passed at 95, Harry Porterfield leaves an incredible legacy in Chicago and across broadcast news. He opened doors for African Americans in the industry, showcased ordinary community members in his famous segments, inspired future journalists, and always exemplified professionalism and intellect. Porterfield’s pioneering career and impact on Chicago will live on for generations.
In summary, Harry Porterfield leaves behind an groundbreaking legacy as a broadcaster who paved the way for African Americans in Chicago news and created beloved community-focused segments. He will be remembered for his kindness, dedication, and talent – a true Chicago icon. Porterfield’s influence will continue to be felt by the countless journalists and community members he inspired over his 50+ year career.