By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Stan Chambers, who joined local KTLA-TV news in Los Angeles in the late 1940s, at the dawn of the television age, and spent six decades as a local TV journalism institution, died on Friday at the age of 91, the station said.
Chambers, who retired from KTLA in 2010 after 63 years as a broadcast journalist in America's second-largest city, passed away at his home in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, surrounded by family members, according to a news story posted on the station's website.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Chambers family," ?Don Corsini, KTLA's president and general manager, said in a statement on the website. "Stan was a brilliant journalist and one of the best in the business."
Chambers, then 24, was a veteran of the U.S. Navy attending the University of Southern California on the G.I. bill and working on the campus magazine when he heard about a job behind the scenes at KTLA, starting work in December of 1947.
"I heard a program one night saying that one of the local television stations had expanded its broadcasting schedule," Chambers said in 2010, according to KTLA. "I didn’t even know that television was on the air."
Chambers soon began appearing on camera and in April of 1949 took part in a seminal moment for TV journalism: the 27-hour, live coverage of frantic efforts to rescue Kathy Fiscus, a 3-year-old girl trapped at the bottom of an abandoned well.
That broadcast, at a time when few American households even had a television set, is considered one of the first live broadcasts of a breaking news story.
"We had no idea of the impact that this was going to make,” Chambers said of that story, according KTLA.
"It really brought the city together. Los Angeles was a big city, but on this one weekend, it became a small town," he said. "Neighbors would visit neighbors they didn’t know very well. They’d sit in front of the set. They’d have dinner there. They’d go to sleep on the floor, really right up to the end."
Chambers went on to cover the biggest news events in Los Angeles and elsewhere, including the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, the Watts riots and Rodney King beating, among thousands of other stories.
He is survived by his wife, Gigi, as well as 11 children, 38 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Lisa Lambert)