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February 1, 1912|
September 30, 1984 (aged 72)|
Los Angeles, California
|Years active||1950s – 1980s|
|Notable credit(s)||KCBS-TV, KTLA Channel 5, KCET|
KNXT Channel 2
After serving as a war correspondent in World War II and Korea, Roberts settled in the Los Angeles area and became a respected radio news reporter, eventually turning to television in the mid-1950s at KNXT Channel 2 (now KCBS-TV), the local CBS owned-and-operated station. He anchored a nightly newscast and occasionally ventured to far-flung locations to report on national and international stories, taking with him his own Bell and Howell movie camera with which he shot his own news footage. With him on KNXT's newscasts in that time were three other Los Angeles television stalwarts, anchor and reporter Bill Stout, weather forecaster Bill Keene and sports reporter Gil Stratton (who at the time also doubled as a radio, television and movie actor).
KTLA Channel 5
Roberts left KNXT in 1959 and joined Los Angeles station KTLA Channel 5 as news director and primary anchor, along with news producer/director Julian Macdonald, virtually remaking that independent station's news operation. The newscast Roberts and Macdonald oversaw included such respected figures as Stout (who followed Roberts to KTLA in 1960), sports reporter and former football star Tom Harmon, and veteran reporter Stan Chambers (who retired on August 11, 2010 on his 87th birthday, marking 63 years as a reporter at KTLA). Roberts' signature conclusion to the early news broadcast was, "I bid you a pleasant evening"; for the late news it was "I bid you goodnight."
"The Big News"
In 1966, Roberts returned to KNXT, joining the station's highly-esteemed 6 p.m. "The Big News" broadcast and its late-night companion "The Eleven O'Clock Report." Roberts joined a staff that included anchor Jerry Dunphy, Maury Green, Ralph Story, Keene, and Stratton. Roberts contributed news and feature reports and anchored the weekend newscasts. Early in 1974 he once again left KNXT for KTLA and took over the station's hour-long 10 p.m. newscasts. After two years Roberts decided to step back from nightly television news and left KTLA; after a hiatus he joined then-PBS member television station KCET, contributing feature reports and commentaries. His long tenure in Los Angeles comprised reports and travels ranging from offbeat local stories to the war in Vietnam. According to the book Helter Skelter, the young son of a neighbor of Roberts found what turned out to be the .22 Buntline revolver wielded by Manson Family member Tex Watson the night of actress Sharon Tate's and her houseguests' murders, and it was turned over to the police. As details of the crime came out in the weeks that followed, the boy's father made several calls to the police, suggesting that the missing murder weapon was the same broken, long-barreled gun his son had found. Finally, fed up with months of being ignored by the LAPD, he asked Clete Roberts to intervene in December 1969. The book does not say whether the call from Roberts finally did the trick.
Roberts also carried his polish and expertise onto the "silver screen" and television as well, most notably in select episodes of M*A*S*H, in which he played himself, a war correspondent.
Roberts appeared as himself in the lengthy introduction to the crime syndicate expose film The Phenix City Story in 1955. He interviewed on camera several of the actual townspeople of Phenix City, Alabama, who had been witness to the events there in the 1930s, '40s and early '50s.