||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2009)|
|Born||William Horton Kuretich
September 21, 1940
Pensacola, Florida, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Kansas (B.S.),
Washburn University School of Law (J.D.)
|Occupation||television journalist, Spokesperson, and producer|
|Notable credit(s)||WBBM-TV, CBS Morning News, Investigative Reports, American Justice, and Cold Case Files|
|Home town||Chicago, Illinois|
|Board member of||Kurtis Productions|
|Spouse(s)||Helen Kurtis (1963-1977; her death)|
|Partner(s)||Donna La Pietra
1 son (deceased),
|Relatives||Frank Kurtis (cousin)|
|Family||Jean Schodorf (sister)|
Bill Kurtis (born William Horton Kuretich; September 21, 1940) is an American television journalist, producer, narrator, and news anchor. He is also the current host of A&E crime and news documentary shows, including Investigative Reports, American Justice, and Cold Case Files. Previously, he anchored CBS Morning News, and was the longtime anchor at WBBM-TV, the CBS owned-and-operated TV station in Chicago.
Early life 
Kurtis was born in Pensacola, Florida, to Wilma Mary Horton (1911—2002) and William A. Kuretich (Croatian: Kuretic’), of Croatian origin (1914-2001), a U.S. Marine Corps brigadier general and decorated veteran of World War II. His father’s military career included extensive travel for his family. Upon his retirement, the family settled in Independence, Kansas.
At age 16, Kurtis began working as an announcer for KIND-AM, a radio station in Independence. He graduated from Independence High School in 1958, the University of Kansas with a B.S. in Journalism in 1962 and he earned a Juris Doctor degree from Washburn University School of Law in 1966. While in law school he worked part-time at WIBW-TV in Topeka, Kansas. After passing the Kansas Bar examination and accepting a job with a Wichita law firm, Kurtis discussed his options with Harry Colmery and Bob McClure of Colmery and Russell and decided to pursue a career in law.
Television career 
On the evening of June 8, 1966, Kurtis left a Bar review class at Washburn to fill in for a friend at WIBW-TV. He would anchor the 6:00 news. Severe weather was approaching Topeka so Kurtis stayed to update some weather reports. AT 7:00 p.m. while on the air, a tornado was sighted by WIBW cameraman Ed Rutherford southwest of the city. Within 15 seconds another sighting came in: “it’s wiped out an apartment complex”. At that moment, Kurtis knew his next words would mean life and death. He had to transform a tornado watch into a full scale warning. He said, “For God’s sake, take cover”. These words became synonymous with the 1966 Topeka tornado that left 16 dead and injured hundreds more. Kurtis and the WIBW broadcast team remained on the air for 24 straight hours to cover the initial tornado and its aftermath. Being the only television station in town and one of the few radio stations not damaged by the tornado, WIBW became a communications hub for emergency operations. The experience changed Kurtis’ career path from law to broadcast news. Within three months, after seeing his work covering the tornado, WBBM-TV in Chicago hired Kurtis and set the stage for a 30 year career with CBS.
1966 in Chicago was the beginning of a tumultuous four years and as a reporter and anchor, Kurtis was in the middle of historic events. He covered the neighborhood fires that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and again when Robert Kennedy was shot. The protests against the Vietnam War dominated the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and Kurtis never left the streets. His law degree came into play when he covered the Chicago Seven Conspiracy trial in 1969 which led to a job with CBS News in Los Angeles as correspondent. One of his first assignments was covering the Charles Manson murder trial for 10 months. Then followed the murder trials of Angela Davis, Juan Corona and the Pentagon Papers trial of Daniel Ellsberg. In 1973 Kurtis returned to Chicago to co-anchor with Walter Jacobson at WBBM-TV. In 1978, his investigative Focus unit broke the Agent Orange story-- U.S. veterans who were sprayed by the defoliant in Vietnam. After a dramatic screening of the documentary in Washington D.C. the Veterans Administration issued guidelines to diagnose and compensate those veterans affected by Agent Orange. By 2013 the government had recognized more than fifty different diseases connected to Agent Orange exposure. More than 200,000 veterans have been compensated. Kurtis returned to Vietnam in 1980 to cover the Vietnamese side of the story and while there, discovered some 15,000 children left behind when the U.S. pulled out in 1975. These Amer-Asian children had American fathers so they were American citizens. A story Kurtis wrote for the New York Times Magazine was instrumental in obtaining special status for the children to enter the United States, where they live today. In 1982, Kurtis joined Diane Sawyer on the CBS Morning News, the network broadcast from New York. He anchored three CBS Reports: The Plane That Fell From The Sky, The Golden Leaf and the Gift of Life. In 1987, Kurtis anchored a 4-part series on the CIA for PBS. He returned to WBBM-TV in 1985 and started his own documentary production company—Kurtis Productions—in 1988—the same year he produced, Return to Chernobyl for the PBS series, Nova and became the first American television reporter to enter the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster. It was the beginning of the golden age of cable documentaries. Kurtis narrated nearly 1,000 and Kurtis Productions produced nearly 500 for series like The New Explorers on PBS, Investigative Reports, Cold Case Files for the A & E Television Network, and Investigating History for the History Channel. He also hosted American Justice produced by Towers Productions. For CNBC, the company has produced nearly 100 episodes of American Greed.
Kurtis has received two Peabody Awards, numerous Emmys, awards from the Overseas Press Club, DuPont and has been inducted into the Illinois and Kansas Halls of Fame. IN 1998, he was awarded the University of Kansas William Allen White citation.
He is the narrator of a multimedia book by Joe Garner, We Interrupt This Broadcast, with a foreword by Walter Cronkite and epilogue by Brian Williams. Kurtis has authored three books, On Assignment, 1984, Death Penalty on Trial, 2004 and Prairie Table Cookbook, 2008.
Film work 
Kurtis narrated the 2010 documentary film Carbon Nation by Peter Byck and was the narrator in the 2004 film starring Will Ferrell, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. And he appeared in an extensive campaign for ATT’s connect card along with Michael Phelps, Floyd Mayweather, Andy Roddick.
Tallgrass Beef Company 
In 2005, Kurtis founded a grass-fed beef company to raise and distribute a healthy beef product without artificial hormones, antibiotics, the use of grain in the feed, and no feedlots. There was no market for grass-fed and grass-finished beef in 2005 but slowly the story of how cattle evolved on grass not corn began to catch the imagination of customers. By 2013, the grass-fed market was growing rapidly and Tallgrass Beef Company is among the leaders in the organic and natural food movement. Kurtis and his sister, Jean Schodorf of Wichita, Kansas, inherited the historic site of the Little House on the Prairie as designated by the State of Kansas. It is now a not for profit museum with their grandmother’s one room schoolhouse, a tiny Post Office from Wayside, Kansas, a homesteader’s farm house and attendant farm buildings. Kurtis’ father was a cousin of Frank Kurtis, in the Indianapolis 500 Hall of Fame.
Recently, Kurtis has appeared on NPR’s news quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, filling in for regular announcer Carl Kasell. Kurtis also contributed a spoken-word introduction to The Dandy Warhols’ 2005 album Odditorium or Warlords of Mars.
Personal life 
Kurtis and his longtime partner, Donna La Pietra, are very active in many civic and charitable causes. They support numerous non-profit organizations including the Field Museum of Natural History, the Illinois Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library, Shedd Aquarium, Chicago Zoological Association. They are also among the founders of Millenium Park. Kurtis’s wife, Helen Scott, died of breast cancer in June 1977. His son Scott Erik, died at age 38, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Daughter Mary Kristin Kurtis, 48, manages the Red Buffalo Ranch near Sedan, Kansas, home of Tallgrass Beef. A graduate of Boston University, she returned to Kansas after 15 years in San Francisco. Kurtis’s sister, Jean Schodorf, was a Kansas State Senator for 13 years before switching to the Democratic Party in Kansas.
Writing credits 
- Bill Kurtis on Assignment published October 1, 1983 (out of print) by Rand McNally; ISBN 0-528-81005-7
- American Justice published August 1, 1999 by TV Books Inc.; ISBN 1-57500-109-8
- The Death Penalty on Trial: Crisis in American Justice about the death penalty was published November 30, 2004 by PublicAffairs; ISBN 1-58648-169-X
Pop culture 
In the TV series South Park, the boys play a game called "Investigative Reports with Bill Kurtis" where a player must decide to deny a scandal or cover it up. The game first appears in episode 4x05 "Cartman Joins NAMBLA," and can also be seen at the beginning of episode 8x02 "Up The Down Steroid".
- Bill Kurtis at the Internet Movie Database
- Tallgrass Beef Company
- A Bill Kurtis Tribute
- A&E American Justice
- A&E Cold Case Files
- Illinois Broadcasters Association
- Interview on The BusinessMakers Show