Julius Kelton Hunter is an American former journalist and television news anchor, best known as a reporter/anchorman on two television stations in St. Louis: KSD-TV (now KSDK), the NBC affiliate in St. Louis and KMOX-TV, (now KMOV), the CBS affiliate in St. Louis. But while he achieved his greatest fame as a TV news reporter and anchorman from 1970 to 2002, he is also widely appreciated for his work as a teacher, civic leader, author, historian, newspaper columnist, radio talk show host, university administrator, police commissioner, musician and founder of an extensive African American Research Collection based at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters.
Hunter was born in St. Louis to Van and Lena Hunter. Under the tutelage of an older brother, Van, Julius began reading by the age of three. With no books of note in the home, Van taught the boy, Julius, how to read using the local telephone directory and the labels on grocery items. Hunter says today about his early reading lessons, “It was ‘Hooked On Phonics’ before there was ‘Hooked On Phonics. “I still read every grocery can label in my kitchen pantry from time to time.”Too advanced for kindergarten, Julius’ entry level teachers at Cole Elementary School advanced him to second grade after just one semester in school. His first dictionary, given to him by his fourth grade teacher, Johnetta Jackson, sparked the boy Julius to love words and reading. “I read that dictionary like it was a novel,” he says.
The boy Julius began piano lessons at age nine under the tutelage of Samuel Nicholas, a native of Guiana, and Music director for the three Black Lutheran churches in St. Louis: Holy Sacraments, St. Phillip’s, and Transfiguration – all churches in the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. By age 16, Julius became organist and choirmaster at Holy Sacraments Lutheran Church, about the same time he was selected to be student director and accompanist of the Sumner High School, under the tutelage of the great Kenneth Brown Billups.
Julius was elected president of his grade school, high school, and college senior classes. At Sumner High School, in addition to choral and instrumental music, he excelled in English, Spanish, Music and drama. In fact, at Sumner, Julius played the lead role in the student production of Molière’s The Miser. Hunter’s crowning glory at high school came when he singlehandedly wrote, produced, directed, and starred in a 90-minute Senior Class Day spoof based on popular TV programming in the early ‘60’s. The comical and highly acclaimed stage production was called “TV, Or Not TV?”
At Harris Teachers College (now Harris–Stowe State University), Hunter continued to shine as a class leader and graduated with a B.A. Degree in Elementary School Education in 1965. In a college tradition of annual fraternity singing competitions, under Julius’ training, composing, and directing his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi took first place for three years in a row before the College dropped the Inter-Frat Sing.
Julius began his post-college career as an 8th grade teacher at Hamilton Elementary School. Upon graduation from Harris-Stowe, Hunter was told that he would be teaching a sixth grade class after the summer break. When he showed up for Teacher Orientation that fall, to his surprise he was assigned to a self-contained classroom of 44 students. He was 21 years old; some of his students were already 16 and 17 years old. “That,” says Hunter, “is where I first learned that law and order has to precede effective teaching and learning.” After two years in the class room, the District Superintendent recognized Hunter’s innovative teaching skills and chose Hunter to serve at the School District-owned educational radio station, KSLH as its first African American employee. Hunter got his first taste of broadcasting as a writer, producer, actor and announcer of children’s radio programming.
And then, an exciting job that used all Hunter’s creative juices, writing, broadcasting and producing skills called to him from Chicago. He was hired as the first African American copyrighter at the prestigious, and then third-largest advertising firm in the country, Foote Cone & Belding. He worked with a group that wrote TV commercials for such products as Dial Soap and Deodorant, Raid House& Garden Spray, Kraft Italian Macaroni Dinners and Kleenex/Kotex. (Hunter takes no blame for the fact that while he was at FCB, the agency lost the Falstaff Beer, TWA, Sara Lee, and TWA accounts. He never worked on either product.)
After a year, homesick for the “briar patch,” as he called it, Hunter returned to St. Louis in 1969 to take a job in the Student Affairs Department at Washington University. He was hired as director of a student outreach program called “Education in Action,” and, to his astonishment, he was appointed the Housemaster of Umrath Hall, a dormitory housing 140 Freshman women. “That,” says Hunter, “was when I realized that ‘Hell hath no fury like a Woman’s Dorm!” Once again, Hunter found himself to be the first African American hired for either of the positions.
In that same year that Hunter began his work at Washington University, 1969, He married Barbara Turk, a third generation English teacher whom he had met when they worked as summer counselors in Webster University’s “ Upward Bound” program in 1967. The couple had two daughters, Jennifer and Julia, who both went on to become Harvard Honors graduates. Barbara and Julius were divorced, quite amicably, in 1989, but, even though she is happily remarried, Julius and Barbara remain the best of friends to this day
After a year at Washington University, Hunter entered a profession in which he turned out to be a pioneer for African American broadcast journalists. He was named as a reporter, then weekend anchor, then weekend news director at KSDK, the NBC affiliate in St. Louis. After nearly five years at 5, Hunter was lured away for expanded reporter and anchoring duties at KMOX-TV, the then owned and operated CBS television station in St. Louis. He became the first African American in St. Louis to anchor a prime time newscast in St. Louis when he began anchoring the Six O’clock News. At one time during his 28-year stint at Channel 4 he anchored three newscasts a day at 5, 6, and 10.
Hunter officially retired from broadcast news in November 2002, but snapped up immediately by Saint Louis University President, Father Lawrence Biondi, S.J. to become university. Hunter was named the university’s first Vice President for Community Outreach. His mission was to engage the university and the outside community in symbiotic programs to benefit each. “President Reagan wasn't the only guy to effectively say ‘tear down that wall,’ Hunter says, Hunter’s outstanding work on campus and in the community was hailed by those on both sides of the university gates. Greatly increased mutual respect was achieved between town and gown. While serving at SLU, Hunter was appointed in 2006 by Missouri Governor Matt Blunt to the five-member St. Louis Police Board, for a four-year term. With the position came the honorary rank of Colonel. Hunter retired from SLU in 2007. His term on the Police Board expired three years after that, butHunter’s name and accomplishments are still recognized wherever he has served.
Hunter is the author of six popular books that include his children’s alphabet book; a college textbook on broadcast news; two beautiful coffee table books on the great mansions of Kingsbury, Westmoreland, and Portland Places in St. Louis. His book on Westmoreland and Portland Places turned out to be the University of Missouri Press’ all-time best-seller, with more than 138,000 copies sold world wide. Hunter also wrote a colorful book, Honey Island, tracing his family roots back to the birth of his great-great grandfather as a slave born in 1825 Kentucky. But Hunter’s great-great grandfather, Ned Rounds was a founder of the all-Black town of Honey Island, Mississippi, where he became he town’s first banker – keeping the wages that the newly freed slaves had never handled before.
Hunter’s last authored book is a tour de force of his 33-year career in broadcast news. It recounts exclusive interviews he has had with five incumbent U.S. Presidents: Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II. He even gave some advice to presidential aspirant. He told Barack Obama: “You’ve got to stop saying you ‘worship your Jesus every Sunday, Senator. Sounds like you are a once a week Christian. And Senator, the evangelist, Billy Sunday’ once said ‘Going to church every Sunday no more makes you a Christian than going into your garage every day make you an automobile.’ ” Senator Obama smiled and said: “You’re right!” And he never used the Sunday-only reference again.
Hunter’s autobiographical “TV One-on-One” features transcripts of the historic interviews with the Presidents along with behind the scenes juicy tidbits about many of the hundred of exclusive celebrity interviews he conducted in his nearly third of a century in broadcasting. He had close up broadcast chats with such luminaries as Pearl Bailey, Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Hoffa, Sophia Loren, Cab Calloway, Milton Berle, Julia Child, Oprah Winfrey, Bette Midler and Ike Turner, to name a very few. Broadcast Icon Walter Cronkite, in an inscription to Hunter referred to him as a “consummate pro.” Respected sports broadcaster Bob Costas, whose Sunday night radio show on KMOX preceded Hunter’s three-hour “At Your Service” program on Sunday nights in the mid-80’s says of his friend: “Julius Hunter’s blend of journalistic excellence and warmth made him both a respected figure in St. Louis. Julius is my friend – and even had I never meet him, I would be among his admirers.”
Cedric the Entertainer assessed Julius this way: “He dresses nice … for a large man.”
Hunter was the only St. Louis news reporter dispatched to Rome twice in 1978 following the deaths of Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul I. From Rome, Hunter sent daily videotape and “live” reports by satellite back to St. Louis on the Popes’ funerals and proceedings to replace them. During the long funeral motorcade carrying world figures into the Vatican on Hunter’s second Rome assignment, Hunter managed to get his limos driver to swing in during a lull right behind the limo carrying King Juan Carlos of Spain. Although he and his car and crew managed to slip through the Vatican gates, he was summarily thrown out by the Swiss Guard.
Hunter also accompanied Pope John Paul II on the Pope’s historic six-city/seven-day whirlwind tour of America in 1979. And Hunter covered the Pontiff on his coast-to-coast American tour in 1987. Hunter was the lead field anchor/reporter for Channel 4 for all the St. Louis venues the Pope visited in January 1999.
Julius has often said that if he could have his all-time dream job, it would be to have a full-time job as conductor and music director of a major symphony orchestra. In fact, he has held a guest baton directing the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra; the St. Louis Philharmonic Orchestra; the Bach Society Chorus; the Clayton Symphony Orchestra; the St. Louis African Chorus; and the Harris-Stowe Concert Chorale.
African American history is also of keen interest to Hunter. After he researched, wrote and edited the book on his family’s fascinating history, Hunter began to realize that family root searches could be expensive ventures. So, under the auspices of the St. Louis County Library, Julius raised several hundred thousand dollars within three months from his pocket, and the contributions of leading individuals and corporations to open the Julius K. Hunter& Friends African American Research Collection. The Collection is a one-stop shop and features a vast treasure trove of research information to help researchers – amateur and seasoned – to examine books, census data going back to the first U.S. census in 1870, maps, slave ship records, and more.
Hunter has held a lifelong interest in helping young people reach their potential. Towards that goal he served as the permanent host for Radio Station KFUO’s “Young Heroes in Music”program which featured the virtuoso talents of young African American Musicians.
And Hunter was the host of the highly popular “Do the Right Thing” feature on Channel 4 for ten years. This program recognized the achievements and heroics of young people who had gone the extra mile to do the right thing in their homes, schools, churches and communities.
Awards and Honors (Partial)
- 1980 National Religion in Media Award
- 1981 Missouri Medal of Honor (U. of MO Journalism School)
- 1983 American Bar Association Award (“Insanity Plea”)
- 1987 The American Jewish Committee’s “Micah Award”
- 1987 St. Louis Ambassadors “Spirit of St. Louis” Award
- 1987 Brotherhood/Sisterhood” Award (NCCJ)
- 1988 Bob Hardy Award (Southern Illinois Police Chiefs’ Association
- 1993 Media Person of the Year” St. Louis Press Club
- 1993 St. Louis Book Award (St. Louis County Historical Society)
- 1998 Lifetime Achievement Award (Catholic Youth Council)
- 2000 Renaissance 2000 Award (MLK Mo. State Committee)
Hunter has served on the Adjunct Faculties of Maryville, Washington, Harris-Stowe State and Saint Louis Universities teaching courses in Communications and Broadcast Journalism.
Hunter holds Honorary Doctorate Degrees in Humane Letters from the University of Missouri at St. Louis, Harris-Stowe State University, and the Missouri Medal of Honor from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
• http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/speeches/1982/72282e.htm Julius Hunter interviews Ronald Reagan, July 22, 1982
• http://www.westendword.com/moxie/news/col-julius.shtml Julius Hunter on the Board of Police Commissioners
Born: Julius Kelton Hunter October 13, 1943 St. Louis, MO United States
Occupation: Junior High Teacher, Ad Copywriter, University Administrator, Television/Radio Broadcaster, Musician, Author, Genealogist, Historian, Lecturer, Police Commissioner, Newspaper Columnist
Years Active: 1965–present
Former Spouse: Barbara Turk Hunter (1969-1989)
Children: Jennifer and Julia