In 1951,when I was six years old, I lived in Osceola, Iowa, where my Dad was editor of the Osceola newspaper. As my birthday approached, Dad asked me what I wanted to do for the day. I said, “I want to go to Des Moines and see Jack Shelley.” At that time, Jack was news anchor for WHO radio, and was already a legend. I, of course, had no idea of Jack’s history or of journalism. What attracted me was that every noon hour on WHO news, there was a promotional jingle that went “Around the corner, behind the bush, looking for the noonday news.” As a six-year-old, I imagined an exciting place where there were bushes and corners and lots of people running around. I also imagined a band with lots of music. My Dad was amazed that I even knew the name of Jack Shelley, but he agreed to take me, and we drove up to Des Moines to the WHO studio, which at that time was on the second floor of a rather non-descript building. Following the noon news, Jack emerged from what looked to me like a closet, wearing large headphones. There were no bushes. There was no band. Although we did meet Jack – I can remember shaking his hand, with Dad explaining why we had come—I was crushed. It wasn’t anything like I had imagined. Dad later took me to a fire station, which seemed much more exciting. Looking back on it now, my story illustrates the power of radio to create images and excitement. It is also a tribute to Jack, who knew how to humanize stories and bring them to life.
Jack Shelley became a professor at Iowa State during the mid 1960s, when I was an undergraduate student in science journalism. I was a student in his very first broadcast class, which met at the Press Building (now Hamilton Hall), but did its work at WOI-TV, the university television station. We recorded audio on Wollensak reel-to-reel tape recorders, and used studio cameras at WOI-TV for video. In 1965, WOI-TV used Ampex recorders costing about $250,000 each to record material for future broadcasts. How exciting it was to face the camera and then see yourself later in critique sessions! Jack was a great teacher. His critiques were always on target and fair, but they also were delivered in a gentle and respectful style. Jack was a professional, whose fairness later led him to be appointed chair of the university’s academic standards committee. In class, Jack shared some of his old wire recordings from World War II, but it was always to make a point about broadcast writing or presentation, and never to promote himself.
I owe a great deal of appreciation to Jack Shelly for his style of teaching that I continue to benefit from on a regular basis when I am called upon to do broadcast interviews. I will never forget his ability helping me as a journalism student to visualize and understand how to reach the listeners in a radio audience; using just the right voice inflection and tone, as well as how to write concise, clear copy…this has proven to be invaluable time and again!
It was priceless to have him occasionally share one of his many war correspondent stories during class; and I was always in such awe of the places he had been and the historic events he covered. Jack is truly a legendary broadcaster, a great teacher and the kindest gentleman who always had a smile and encouraging word!
I was 7 years old in 1941 when Pearl Harbor was bombed, I still remember distinctly my Mother, Father and myself gathered around the radio (battery-powered I might add) and listening to the update we were getting from Jack Shelley. In those days there was no TV...limited news coverage. We depended on Jack for the latest.
Dad was a farmer. He listened to WHO for the farm news with Herb Plambeck and for the regular news froim Jack Shelley. Every noon we listened as we ate.
I first met Jack at the World Plowing match west of Newton. Dwight Eisenhower was to be present one day and that day as a 4-H Member I helped park cars All we 4-H people got to meet Eisenhower and also Jack Shelley. It was one of the highlights of my life.
I always wanted to be a radio broadcaster after that. I attended Iowa State, majored in Ag Journalism and worked part time at WOI radio. But never made it to be a professional broadcaster. I will always remember Jack.
Shelley was name I knew well, of course, but he wasn’t teaching in the years (1946-50) when I was a student in the department.
But that day, December 7, 1941, is a vivid one in my memory. I was then 15, and that afternoon I had ridden my bike from our home at 1527 North Grand (where today 16th st. crosses Grand) to the Collegian Theatre on downtown main street (now a bank) to see Sergeant York, the WW-I movie. When I got home, the family was all crowded around our small table radio listening to the news of Pearl Harbor.
I am the beneficiary of Jack Shelley's legacy at the Greenlee School and at WHO-TV. I am also the victim of a generation gap. I finally met Jack Shelley at the Greenlee School Awards Reception in the spring of 2004. My parents attended, as I had recently graduated. They spotted him from across the room and exclaimed, "That's JACK SHELLEY!" When we approached Jack and shook his hand, you would have thought my parents were meeting Elvis. It was all they could talk about later at dinner. I never knew Jack Shelley, but he struck me as being a very distinguished man who had a glint in his eye and a kind way about him.
My first encounters with Jack Shelley occurred years ago when I was publishing The Seymour Herald, a small-town weekly in Wayne County, Iowa. As an army reservist, I was driving to Ft. Des Moines two Monday nights a month to attend drill, and from time to time I would deliver an 8x10 black and white photo of a news event in Seymour to Jack at WHO-TV. Often the photos would appear on the 10 o’clock news, but I never got to see one because I was headed home about that time.
Years later, when I was public relations director for the Iowa State Center and a graduate student in journalism at Iowa State University, I had the privilege of attending one of Jack’s classes. My fellow students and I always felt we learned more from Jack’s experiences than from his text-book assignments. Subsequently, as a part-time instructor in the department, I continued frequent contacts with Jack
And I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to maintain a friendship with him for many years.
I also grew up listening to Jack Shelley on WHO radio every noon. I was very fortunate to have him as my advisor in the late 1960’s at Iowa State. But my fondest memory came when years later I was awarded the James W. Schwartz Award in 2003.
In honor of the occasion, my family drove to Ames on a football Saturday afternoon. Everyone was excited except my father. At age 87, he was tired and would have much preferred to be in his comfortable recliner watching college football at his home in Washington, Iowa. As we sat in the student lounge area of Hamilton Hall before the presentation ceremony, we did our best to cheer Dad up, but to no avail. Then Jack walked into the area with his cheery “Hello everybody” greeting. Dad sat up wide-eyed in his chair and said to me “That sounded like Jack Shelley.” I said “That’s because it is Jack Shelley. Would you like to meet him?” Dad, who had seemed to be glued to his chair, jumped to his feet exclaiming “Would I!”.
Following the ceremony, there were the usual pictures to be taken. Dad took me aside and said “Do you think Jack Shelley would have his picture taken with me?” Of course Jack was happy to oblige and one of my favorite photos of my now-deceased father is one of Jack, Dad and me with smiles all around.
In the years that followed, Dad often referred to that afternoon not as the day his son was presented with the Schwartz Award, but as the day he met Jack Shelley.
The first time I can remember seeing Jack Shelley was in our living room in Fairfield, Iowa delivering the news for WHO. He was this genial figure beaming out from our black and white television set, making the day's news tolerable even when the news wasn't so good. Years later this larger-than-life figure walked into a classroom at Iowa State University and started to mold generations of would-be broadcast journalists. With grandfatherly grace he worked to make each of us better writers. And among his many lessons was the idea that the story was more important than the story teller. He cared greatly about this craft and considered each of his far flung student flock as friends many, many years after we'd moved on to make our own marks. He was an absolute treasure.
Jack was not yet 30 years old when that clarion voice reported the news to the wide area of clear-channel WHO. I was a farm kid in western Illinois, and we prized our reception of WHO for Jack's newscast, which also included the weather in central Iowa--we'd usually get it the next day.If today was clear in Des Moines, we could safely cut hay and expect a drying day tomorrow.
The first face-to-face meeting was 1946 on (of all places) the campus of the University of Illinois. One of his former news colleagues at WHO was teaching the first course in radio in the J School at Illinois that fall as WWII veterans came back to college. The fellow, Don Brown, shared Jack with us for most of the 50 minutes that afternoon. The memorable voice was now associated with the friendly and thoughtful embodiment of Jack.
It was a grand stroke of good fortune when Jack retired to put both his expertise and personality innto shaping young journalists with a yen for broadcasting. And a pleasure for others of us who could say "we knew him when," and now had opportunity to know him as devoted colleague and friend. An old gospel song seems to capture the new reakity for me: "We shall meet but we shall miss him."
Jack Shelley was my teacher and my mentor and my friend. I took his radio and television undergraduate classes in the mid 1960s when I decided I wanted to follow a television news career. He had a passion for news and teaching. His classes were awesome. He gave us excellent feedback on our assignments and his door was open for more help. Hearing his great World War II reports was inspiring and I was so impressed at how humble he was about these historical assignments. Jack’s classes prepared me to begin my career in the second largest television market in the country. He was very proud of his former students and he graciously took our calls when we needed help. I think he was more excited than I was when I won a Peabody Award. Of course, I called him before I joined the journalism faculty at Northwestern University and his advice was invaluable. Another phone session helped me decide to move to the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California. Jack, my friend and teacher, I will miss you dearly.
At first, he was his voice. That resonant, mellifluous broadcasting voice that was a part of daily life in Iowa for 30 years. And over the years, we learned that Jack Shelley’s voice was bringing us a truthful, balanced, temperate picture of the world in which we live.
Jack was a great journalist. I never saw him pull a punch, and I never saw him take a cheap shot.
He was as great a teacher as he was a journalist. He was inspiring in the classroom, always urging us to look for one more source and rewrite the story one more time.
He grew up in rural Iowa, at a time many homes didn’t even have electricity. He became the voice of WHO radio during the Depression and covered World War II on two fronts. Not many war correspondents saw both the Battle of the Bulge and the surrender of the Empire of Japan, and found “Iowa boys” on both fronts.
He adapted quickly to the new medium of television, and adapted just a quickly to the role of professor. He was both charming and demanding in the classroom; students sought him out for counsel and inspiration. He served his profession and his state with dignity, honor and grace.
I credit Jack with teaching me the wisdom of getting up early. He assigned news quizzes in his introductory journalism class, requiring you to read the Des Moines Register carefully every day. I was a freshman, living in the Friley dorm, and was too cheap to buy my own Register subscription. One paper was delivered for the entire dorm around 5:30 or 6 a.m. A few hours later, it was usually dogeared and missing half its sections, so I got in the habit of waking early and grabbing the paper when it was still outside. Once I had finished reading, I figured I might as well go to class, so I switched to 8 a.m. classes every day. It was good discipline and I kept it up all four years of school -- and beyond. Jack read everything, and all the class members put in extra effort to do well on those quizzes. He was a brilliant lecturer and a wonderful, kind man. I feel lucky to have known him and stayed in touch (via my parents) after leaving ISU.
I was familiar with Jack Shelley long before we moved to Iowa in the mid-1950's. As a pre-World War II teenager on our ranch in northeastern Wyoming I listened with our family to Jack Shelley's evening newscasts on WHO radio. It was one of several clear channel stations we could get, along with WNAX, Yankton, S.D., KFYR, Bismarck, N.D., KOA, Denver, and WGN in Chicago, but Jack was our favorite newscaster. First, because he was a top-caliber newsman, but second, because of his mellifluous and distinctive voice. Whenever one was out in public with Jack, at a restaurant, for example, people, hearing his voice would stop by the table and say (not ask) "You're Jack Shelley." My father-in-law. who farmed all of his life near Belle Fourche,S.D. visited Willie and me when we were in Ames and we took him to a party at Jack and Katherine's house. It was one of the high-points in his life. He told many of his friends about having the chance to talk to Jack Shelley and what a nice guy he was.
With his vast professional experience and his captivating voice, Jack was a superb classroom lecturer--providing both substance and style. He was a lay reader in our church in Ames. His delivery will never be equaled.
Although he was one of the best known and highly-respected Iowans in his time, Jack was exceedingly modest. kind to a fault, and permanently upbeat. His enthusiasm about his profession, his students and his family was truly contagious.
He was a genuine legend and those of us who knew and worked with him were fortunate and better for the experience.
With help from my mentor, Carl Hamilton, in 1965 I was in transition from being a grad student to becoming an instructor at Iowa State's Department of Journalism as well as being the faculty business advisor to student publications. That's when I first met Jack Shelley.
Of course, like nearly every other person living in Iowa, I already knew who this man was. Jack was someone who nearly every Iowan felt he knew personally and his voice was a familiar as your best friend's. Maybe it wasn't the most magnificent voice ever heard on the radio but the unique quality of it immediately suggested: “Here's a friendly guy telling me what's going on in my world. He sounds like someone I'd like to know better.”
With the help of 50,000 watts Jack's radio voice was first heard by hundreds of thousands of ordinary folks throughout Iowa and clear across the country. When television came along, Jack was not only heard but now being seen by those who already came to rely on his gentle, friendly, and engaging personality as he told us about the latest tragedy or about some personal folly committed by a local politician.
I met Jack shortly after Carl Hamilton told me about the remarkable coup he had helped engineer that resulted in convincing Jack to join the faculty in the Department of Journalism. One day in early 1965 I was going to visit with Rod Fox in his second floor Press Building office. While walking down the hall Jack came rushing out of his office that, as I recall, was next to Rod's. “Hi Bob Greenlee, I'm Jack Shelley,” he nearly shouted while smiling and walking up to me he extending his hand in a grip of everlasting friendship. How he ever knew who I was and knew my name is still a mystery. But what a thrill it was to actually meet this guy! His large physical stature, huge grin, and friendly manner immediately confirmed all the positive things I already sensed about this man.
I'll never forget the three years that Jack and I spent as colleagues and as part of a superb staff and exceptional faculty at Iowa State. I'm certain that Jack's accepting a position in the Department of Journalism brought a great deal of additional prestige to the Department along with helping recruit a number of students to Iowa State who were more than eager to learn from a man so many already knew.
I will always remember and respect Jack's professionalism, personal commitment to the craft of broadcast journalism, along with his unrelenting good humor and his engaging personality. He deserves all of the positive things that have already been or will be said about his long and distinguished life and career. He was a man it was my pleasure to know and work with for so many years. God Bless you, Jack Shelley.
I remember Jack Shelly's advice as if I learned those lessons just yesterday. He was my advisor between 1968 and 1970. I was a working broadcaster at the time, and found him to be a valuable resource and role model. I still have the books and notes from his classes, because they represent such an important example of the purpose, ethics, and practices of journalism. When watching some of the clips of his reporting, I noticed that his writing was so remarkably precise, eloquent, and grammatical. Jack Shelly will be long remembered.
I was a senior in Marshalltown High School and already knew that I wanted to be a broadcaster.
Because I was undecided between going to a radio trade school or attending college, my mother suggested that I write to Jack Shelley to whom she listened religiously. I did and Jack was very diplomatic in his reply.
He acknowledged that a trade school could teach me good techniques, but if I were interested a broadcast journalism career a university education was the better choice.
Of course, with the presumed wisdom of a teenager, I ignored Jack’s advice and went to radio school. But after working full time for three years I decided that Jack’s original suggestion was correct and I began my undergraduate career at the University of Iowa.
When I attended graduate school at Iowa State University, I had an assistantship at WOI-Radio and TV, and Jack was my mentor. He later helped me land my first full time broadcast journalism job at what was then KRNT Radio and TV.
Years later I was teaching at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Jack called me to inform me of an opening in the ISU broadcast sequence. “Would you like to join us here?” he asked. “Wow!” I thought. You don’t say no to Jack Shelley and I quickly said yes.
Jack’s final academic year at ISU was 1981-82 and it was my first. I had the honor that year of team teaching with Jack. I was the junior partner of course, but what a joy to be in the same room and to learn from him.
After that year, nothing else I did—in my mother’s opinion—could match the fact that her elder son had worked with Jack Shelley. To Mom this was my ultimate success.
She was right.
Jack Shelley would call my office and say, “Kathy (slight pause) this is Jack Shelley…” of course he didn’t have to tell me who he was because his voice was unmistakable. I’d grin into the phone. He always asked me to transfer the call to Tom Beell. If Tom wasn’t in his office or Jack hadn’t heard from him in a few days Jack would ask me to go check on him. I would call Jack back and tell him everything was OK and he would apologize for asking me to check. He was such a nice, nice man who was just as “big” off the air as he was on air.
When I joined the department Jake took me into the offices to meet the staff. A kindly white-haired gentleman was in the library. He asked me some questions about myself and chatted warmly. He made me feel important because I was from Oak Ridge. But he was the important one, I thought, He was always gracious and unpretentious from that first meeting on. And he often made me feel important, or at least someone whose views were worth hearing. That was because he was most worth hearing of all. What a loss he is to journalism.
The news came as a shock, though I sensed that Jack was failing when my attempts to exchang e-mails dwindled and then stopped altogether. There are no tributes that can do full justice to this man. He was a great journalist, a spell-binding speaker, a superb teacher, and a thoroughly human and caring person. His contributions to the field of journalism are beyond measure, but they will continue to multiply through the performances of his many colleagues and students, whose admiration and respect for him and his work were boundless. Although in these latter years of our lives we have been apart geographically, we maintained our cherished friendship and shared regard for a high level of professionalism in the field we represented. Jack will certainly be missed but his legacy remains.
On my first day as director of the Greenlee School, in July 2003, Kim Curell in the main office (then where the graduate hub now is), said to me, “Two gentlemen are here to see you.” One was a Schwartz Award winner and the other would be in a few years’ time. They were none other than Jack Shelley and Wayne Davis, who taught together and wanted to see if the new director was a journalist … or not. When Jack heard that I had worked for United Press International, his concerns disappeared, and we spoke about the wire service that day, noting such UPI greats as Merriman Smith, Helen Thomas and, of course, Walter Cronkite. At the end of the visit, I asked Jack and Wayne if they were members of the Advisory Council. At the time, they were not. So my first official act as director was to make them honorary members. Both Jack and Wayne attended every Council meeting—Wayne still does, by the way—showing their love for the school, journalism and journalism education. I will miss Jack; but I have plenty of memories of times with him, from visits, to dinners in Gilbert, to FOI meetings and much more. And I’ll sign off now as Jack would want with that wire lingo of the sky: 30.
When I was a young girl growing up on a central Iowa farm, I was awakened early each morning by the voices of Herb Plambeck and Jack Shelley. Dad would turn up the radio volume so they could bring the WHO news into our home. They became part of our family routine at a time when radio was a critical link to the world.
Imagine my surprise and delight when, some 20 years later, I received a personal letter from Jack. I was working as a reporter, columnist and editor for the Waukon Republican-Standard in northeast Iowa and Jack had a radio show called Hometown News. He praised my writing and asked my permission to read an occasional column on the air. What an honor! His words were kind, encouraging and just what a budding columnist in small town Iowa needed at the beginning of her career.
I owe so much to Jack. When I decided to work on my master’s degree at ISU, Jack was one of the first to welcome me with his usual warmth and grace. I considered him a mentor, a dear friend, and one of the finest human beings one could encounter in a lifetime. He’ll truly be missed.
Hundreds of Iowa State students heard Jack Shelley's voice on a wire recorder document the birth of the atomic age. He had created, collected and saved the momentous occurrence in America's southwest desert as an invited guest to explain to a world-wide audience the first atomic test. Not just once, but again and again, in the introductory course where dozens of journalism students made their commitment to the field. He never tired of replaying the segment. His audiences continued to marvel at the recording when they heard it for the first time, scratchy and partly broken though it was. He told us all that the actuality was journalism, and we all wanted to do it, too!
Several dozen journalism faculty received weekly lessons similar to the early taping. Jack engaged us all in frequent, short and intense discussions of pedagogy and the future of our field. We were fortunate to discuss with Jack. He was always interested in our opinions and experiences. We never failed to receive a lesson in the practice of our field in these talks. And we always thought perhaps something we said might find its way into his service club news summaries the following week. He was persistence, always pleasant, but firmly grounded in news production. We took ourselves seriously when Jack was in our audience.
To Jack and his family we say "Hail, and farewell" knowing that we have met a master.