John Cameron Swayze

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John Cameron Swayze
John Cameron Swayze News Caravan 1955.JPG
Born(1906-04-04)April 4, 1906
DiedAugust 15, 1995(1995-08-15) (aged 89)
Resting placeRound Hill Community Cemetery
Greenwich, Connecticut
OccupationNews presenter, reporter,
game show panelist
Years active1940–1985
Spouse(s)Beulah Mae Estes Swayze
Children1 son, 1 daughter

John Cameron Swayze (April 4, 1906 – August 15, 1995) was an American news commentator and game show panelist during the 1940s and 1950s who later became best known as a product spokesman.

Early life[edit]

Born in Wichita, Kansas, Swayze was the son of a wholesale drug salesman.[1] He attended schools in Atchison[citation needed] and Culver Military Academy[2] before enrolling at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. He left the university before graduating, opting instead for work in radio.[3] There he was a fraternity brother of the subsequent film and television actor Frank Wilcox.[4][better source needed]

Swayze first sought to work as an actor, but his activity on Broadway ended when acting roles became scarce following the Wall Street Crash of 1929.[citation needed]


Swayze returned to the Midwest and worked for the Kansas City Journal-Post as a reporter and as radio editor. While in the latter position, on September 27, 1933, he began the radio program Stranger Than Fiction.[5] He also worked in sports, writing about and broadcasting football games.[6]

From there he graduated to radio, doing news updates for Kansas City's KMBC in 1940 and, reportedly,[according to whom?] an experimental early television newscast. In Kansas City, Swayze broadcast news items prepared by United Press Kansas City bureau overnight editor Walter Cronkite.[citation needed] In 1946, Swayze went to Hollywood, where NBC hired him as director of news and special events for its western division.[7]

During 1948, Swayze provided voiceover work for the Camel Newsreel Theatre, an early television news program that broadcast Movietone News newsreels.

At the same time, Swayze proposed and obtained a radio quiz program.[8] Swayze was a panelist on the radio version, which lasted two years,[9] and on the television version of the program, which was broadcast on NBC from 1948 to 1955.[10]: 1173  In the series, celebrities tried to determine the speaker of quotations taken from recent news reports.[11][better source needed]

NBC, meanwhile, made Swayze the host of its national political convention coverage in 1948, the first commercial coverage ever by television. (NBC Television did broadcast the Republican National Convention from Philadelphia during 1940 on a noncommercial, semi-experimental basis, seen in just three cities: Philadelphia, New York City and Schenectady, NY).


In October 1948, Swayze was a permanent panel member of the quiz show Who Said That? and was referred to as the anchorman in what may be the first usage of this term on television.[12]

Swayze was chosen in 1949 to host NBC's first television newscast, the 15-minute Camel News Caravan. He read items from the news wires and periodically interviewed newsmakers, but he is remembered best for reporting on the Korean War nightly and for his two catchphrases: "Let's go hopscotching the world for headlines" and his signoff: "That's the story, folks—glad we could get together. And now, this is John Cameron Swayze saying good night." Veteran broadcaster David Brinkley wrote in a memoir that Swayze got the job because of his ability to memorize scripts, which allowed him to recite the news when the primitive teleprompters of the time failed to work properly.

In early 1955, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, maker of Camel cigarettes, reduced its sponsorship of the program to three days a week. Chrysler's Plymouth division sponsored the other days, and on those days the program was labeled the Plymouth News Caravan. Eventually, Swayze's almost manic style seemed frivolous compared to that of Douglas Edwards, whose rival show on CBS, Douglas Edwards with the News, generally beat Swayze in the national ratings as time went on. In 1956, Swayze was dismissed in favor of the new team of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley. The Huntley-Brinkley Report soon became the nation's top-rated television newscast; Edwards was replaced during 1962 by Walter Cronkite.

Other TV roles[edit]

He also hosted and narrated from 1955 to 1957 the long-running television drama series The Armstrong Circle Theatre (1950–1963)[13] after leaving NBC News as well as a daytime television game show for ABC, Chance for Romance[10] and the syndicated travel program It's a Wonderful World (1963).[14] He was also a substitute host on To Tell the Truth (1956-1968).[10]: 1089 

Product spokesman[edit]

By that time Swayze—despite a brief anchoring of an evening newscast for the American Broadcasting Company—was widely known for starring in a series of television commercials for Timex in which he recited the tagline "It takes a licking and keeps on ticking." In one of these commercials, performed live, he strapped the watch to the propeller blades of an outboard motor, lowered it into a tank of water and ran the motor for a few seconds; but when he pulled the motor back out and tipped up the blades, the watch was missing.

Swayze performed in Timex commercials that were mock newscasts before delivering the catchphrase at the end of the commercials. Swayze did the Timex commercials for over two decades. He also appeared in a Volvo advertisement, driven in an early 1970s two-door model on a muddy racetrack by a professional rally driver.

Swayze also appeared in commercials for Studebaker promoting the automobile company's 1963 model line. He also appeared in a 1984 commercial for radio station WHTZ in New York City, which was broadcast in other markets promoting different radio stations.

Popular culture[edit]

He was satirized by comics Bill Buchanan and Dickie Goodman, whose first "break-in" novelty record (a mock newscast spliced with current rock and roll music), "The Flying Saucer," satirized him as reporter John Cameron Cameron (played by Goodman). Swayze is referenced in a lyric of Allan Sherman's novelty song "My Grandfather's Watch," a parody of "My Grandfather's Clock" by Henry Clay Work.

In 1980, Ray Stevens recorded a novelty song titled "The Watch Song," in which his character, in a bar, is approached by a cowboy whose wife he's been seeing and who challenges him to a fight. Outside, in the course of the fight, the cowboy stomps on the watch and busts it beyond repair. In the refrain, Ray's character calls out to John Cameron Swayze (who, in a series of 1960s commercials, would subject a Timex watch to a grueling physical test, then show it still to be ticking away) to tell him how crazy it sounds to say that the cowboy had busted a watch that had been shot at, dipped in beer, and tied to a motorboat and dragged on a beach. At the sight of his busted watch, Ray's character freaks out and beats the cowboy to death.

Swayze made periodic cameo appearances in movies beginning with 1957's Face in the Crowd and the first scene of 1968’s “The Boston Strangler,” a newscast about Boston’s parade celebrating the feats of the John Glenn’s Mercury orbit.

Swayze was fairly frequently mentioned on the television series The Golden Girls. In episode 805 of Mystery Science Theater 3000, when the watch of a character in the movie The Thing That Couldn't Die is found in a traderat's nest, Tom Servo exclaims: "John Cameron Traderat".

In the 1940s scene of the 1994–present version of Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, John extols the virtues of television, stating "I kind of like it, you know? A guy named John Cameron Swayze gives us all the news and then they have all this singing and dancing. A lot of fluff, but it's fun."


In 1950 Swayze received the Alfred I. duPont Award.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Swayze was the son of Jesse Ernest Swayze and Christine Cameron, aka Camerona (cited by some sources). His father's name is of Norman French origin and dates back to Dorset, England in the early 17th century. He married Beulah Mae Estes in 1935. He died in Sarasota, Florida, on August 15, 1995.[16] He was survived by his widow and two children, John Cameron Swayze, Jr., of Bedford, New York, who anchored weekend news on WCBS Newsradio 880 in New York until October 2010 (under the name Cameron Swayze), and Suzanne Swayze Patrick of Alexandria, Virginia; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.[citation needed]

Swayze and the actor-brothers Patrick Swayze and Don Swayze were sixth cousins once removed. Both John and Patrick's father were descendants by seven generations of Judge Samuel Swayze (March 20, 1688/1689-May 11, 1759) and his wife, Penelope Horton (1689/1690-1746). Judge Swayze was the son of Joseph Swasey and his wife Mary Betts. Mary Betts was the daughter of Captain Richard Betts and his wife, Joanna Chamberlayne. Other noteworthy relations descending from the Betts or Swayze lineages are actors William Holden and Tom Hulce, and Evgenia Citkowitz, wife of actor Julian Sands.[17]


  1. ^ Randy Kennedy (August 17, 1995). "John Cameron Swayze, 89, Journalist and TV Pitchman". The New York Times. p. B12.
  2. ^ "(untitled brief)". The Atchison Daily Globe. Kansas, Atchison. March 18, 1923. p. 3. Retrieved September 27, 2019 – via
  3. ^ Christy, Marian (September 16, 1979). "Cameras And Action Second Nature To John Camerion Swayze". Daily Press. Virginia, Newport News. p. 92. Retrieved September 27, 2019 – via
  4. ^ "Biography of Frank Wilcox". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved February 17, 2013.
  5. ^ "Radio Favorites on Bee Station in New Schedule". The Fresno Bee The Republican. California, Fresno. September 27, 1933. p. 5. Retrieved September 27, 2019 – via
  6. ^ "Today's Features". Chicago Tribune. Illinois, Chicago. November 24, 1938. p. 40. Retrieved September 28, 2019 – via
  7. ^ "John Cameron Swayze To NBC In Hollywood". The Atchison Daily Globe. Kansas, Atchison. February 20, 1946. p. 1. Retrieved September 30, 2019 – via
  8. ^ Roman, James W. (2005). From Daytime to Primetime: The History of American Television Programs. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-31972-3.
  9. ^ Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924-1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 355. ISBN 978-0-7864-4513-4.
  10. ^ a b c Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 175. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  11. ^ "Show Overview: Who Said That?". Retrieved June 12, 2011.
  12. ^ "If Cronkite wasn't TV's first anchorman, who was?". Futurity. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  13. ^ Armstrong Circle Theatre (TV Series 1950–1963) - IMDb, retrieved 2020-12-24
  14. ^ Erickson, Hal (1989). Syndicated Television: The First Forty Years, 1947-1987'. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 176. ISBN 0-7864-1198-8.
  15. ^ All duPont–Columbia Award Winners Archived 2012-08-14 at the Wayback Machine, Columbia Journalism School. Retrieved 2013-08-06.
  16. ^ Cameron Swayze dead at 89
  17. ^ Schoenberger, Nancy (2012-07-18). Dangerous Muse: The Life of Lady Caroline Blackwood. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-307-82235-2.

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
NBC evening news anchors (as the Camel News Caravan)
February 1949 – October 26, 1956
Succeeded by
Preceded by ABC Evening News News anchor
1960 – 1962
Succeeded by