Two former WBAP-TV personalities passed away recently, reminding NBC 5’s longtime viewers of a bygone era in North Texas television history, and a former KXAS-TV executive, who received national and international attention for his gifts to the arts, is also mourned.
Budd Kneisel Dies at Age 80
Budd Kneisel, who died Friday, April 5, worked at NBC 5, then known as WBAP-TV in the 1960s and 1970s, as a member of the promotions department. Kneisel was frequently seen in commercials promoting products like Sun Maid raisins. But viewers may remember his voice, as he often reported for the radio as well as TV, and often recorded voiceovers for both.
Kniesel was versatile, not only reporting on the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald, but also serving as co-host of the popular children’s television show, “The Children’s Hour.”
The show started as a public service program that developed into a popular program that was both educational and entertaining.
“The Children’s Hour” started in 1963 with original host Johnny Hay (Bill Kelley eventually took over hosting duties) and Kneisel provided voices while reading Sunday comics and sound effects. He also helped with segments depicting different professions and interviewed guests to help inform the public about zoo and museum exhibits.
The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History credited “The Children’s Hour” with helping grow museum attendance as viewers visited the museum to see things used on the show in person.
Kneisel worked for the then program director Phil Wygant, the late husband of longtime NBC 5 employee Bobbie Wygant. She recalls Kneisel would escort stars when they visited the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but when an animal Kneisel was transporting relieved itself in a station vehicle, it was cause for jokes between her husband and Kneisel for years after.
“Kitty” Adkins-McIlwain Dies at Age 93
Marye Kathleen “Kitty” Ritter Adkins-McIlwain died March 23 at the age of 93.
Longtime NBC 5 viewers will remember her as host of “Kitty’s Playhouse” and “Kitty’s Wonderland” on WBAP-TV.
“Kitty and her husband, Luther Adkins, were two of the finest people I have known,” said Wygant.
“I admired how Kitty let children be themselves, encouraged them to be themselves, but never let them get out of control,” Wygant said.
Wygant marveled at her ability to work with children, stretching their imagination and knowledge utilizing her Christian background. “She was gentle and spoke in a loving tone with the children, at the same time it was firm,” Wygant said. “She made it interesting and what we call ‘good television’ — that’s a mix of genius.”
After TV she went on to become a successful real estate agent on Fort Worth’s east side.
Blake Byrne Dies at Age 83
Former KXAS-TV president and general manager Blake Byrne died March 24 at age 83.
Bryne was president and general manager of KXAS-TV when in 1982 he was promoted to group vice president of television for KXAS’ then-owner, LIN Broadcasting.
Byrne last visited the station just three years ago.
Byrne went on to serve as co-founder of Argyle Television, which merged with Hearst Corp. in 1997, and was one of the world’s leading art collectors, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
He donated pieces to the Fort Worth Museum of Art and, in 2005, he gifted more than 120 works of art to Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art. It was the largest private donation in that museum’s history.
Byrne received a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2012. The French honor is given to those who have made a significant contribution to the arts, literature or the propagation of these fields.
Bryne died in his sleep at his home in the Hollywood Hills.