Ron Hunter, 70, former TV news anchor

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Ron Hunter joined KYW-TV in 1978 and teamed with Beverly Williams. "He knew how to put together a story," she said.

Ron Hunter, 70, a television news anchor in Chicago, in New Orleans, and at KYW-TV (now CBS3) in Philadelphia for three years, was found dead Tuesday at his home in Henderson, Nev., near Las Vegas. His daughter, Allison, said the death was believed to be from natural causes, but the exact cause has not been determined.

Mr. Hunter's life was a study in reversal of fortune.

"Ron was a complicated guy," former KYW coanchor Beverly Williams said yesterday. "He was dramatic and theatrical, but he knew how to put together a story."

Mr. Hunter was born William Siegelin in 1938 in Bogalusa, La., where his father was once the mayor and his family owned a newspaper. He changed his name to Ron Hunter and briefly pursued a radio career.

In 1967, Mr. Hunter was hired as a news anchor and reporter at WWL-TV in New Orleans. He helped boost the station's newscast from third place to first in the ratings before leaving in 1972.

He then worked a succession of high-profile television news jobs in Buffalo, N.Y., Miami, Chicago and Philadelphia.

When he was riding high in Chicago, Mr. Hunter earned six figures and was honored as 1977 Father of the Year. He won an Emmy that same year for his coverage of a hostage drama.

Mr. Hunter ultimately became a punching bag for television critics during his career at WMAQ-TV in Chicago from 1976 to 1978.

"He couldn't cover his nose, much less a fire," Chicago Sun-Times critic Frank Swertlow told Time magazine in a 1978 piece on overpaid and underqualified television news anchors.

Time reported that Mr. Hunter's departure from Chicago was due to "stagnant ratings and intense vilification by the city's acerbic TV critics." Chicago magazine labeled him a "pompadoured pomposity."

Mr. Hunter joined KYW in October 1978 as Williams' coanchor at 11 p.m. The pair replaced Vince Leonard and Jack Jones. Mr. Hunter was shifted to the noon slot nine months later and to the weekend assignment in 1980.

When Mr. Hunter left Philadelphia in 1981, Pat Polillo, his boss at KYW, said his departure was amicable and was prompted by "overriding personal factors."

Mr. Hunter had come to typify the preening, perfectly coiffed news actor fictionalized by the character Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the Philadelphia Daily News reported in 1996.

Mr. Hunter returned to his native Louisiana in 1981 and joined the news staff at WVUE-TV in New Orleans, where he worked for four years before moving back to local radio.

Mr. Hunter fell on hard times in the 1990s. He lost his job as a radio host after his wife, Marilou "Bunny" Hunter, called in to his talk show to discuss their marital problems while Hunter was interviewing a sex therapist on the air. Just hours later, his wife shot herself while Hunter slept next to her. The station fired him a few days later.

"My father did the best he could to care for me and my brother," his daughter said. "My mother's death hit him hard. He never recovered."

Mr. Hunter retired and moved to Nevada in 1999.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Hunter is survived by a son, Colt, and a sister.

A funeral in Bogalusa is being planned, his daughter said.


Contact staff writer Gayle Ronan Sims at 215-854-4185 or gsims@phillynews.com.