Harry Porterfield, beloved Chicago TV news anchor, ‘Someone You Should Know’ raconteur, dies at 95

Mr. Porterfield, with more than 50 years of experience, was the dean of Chicago new anchors when he signed off in 2015 at age 87.

SHARE Harry Porterfield, beloved Chicago TV news anchor, ‘Someone You Should Know’ raconteur, dies at 95
Harry Porterfield, one of Chicago’s most beloved and respected news broadcasters, has died at the age of 95.

Harry Porterfield, one of Chicago’s most beloved and respected news broadcasters, died Monday at age 95.


Beloved Chicago television news broadcaster Harry Porterfield, who for years shared the unique tales of hundreds of area residents through his signature “Someone You Should Know” series, died Monday. He was 95.

His first profile for the series aired on WBBM-TV Channel 2 in 1977 and featured a paralyzed woman who worked as a hospital receptionist and operated a switchboard using a device she clutched in her teeth, family said.

Mr. Porterfield died Monday morning from natural causes while surrounded by his family in Munster, Indiana.

The idea to showcase people in the community doing extraordinary things quickly resonated with viewers.

“He started getting a lot of mail from people who’d suggest other people to do stories on,” said Mr. Porterfield’s granddaughter, Amanda Porterfield, who is a news anchor at CBS 58 in Milwaukee.

A sampling of the personalities Mr. Porterfield’s “Someone You Should Know” profiled includes a retired mail carrier who volunteered at suburban junior high school; a woman who ran a business designing clothes for full-figured women and finished last in the 1987 Chicago Triathlon; a teen professional jazz pianist; and a dentist who provided free care to ex-offenders.

His melodic voice had a warm and soothing tenor that complemented the way he told stories and connected with people, said retired news anchor and former colleague Paul Meincke.

“He was an exceptional talent, a real people person and a genuinely good guy. ‘Someone You Should Know’ is pretty legendary, and they’re the sort of stories on people we should have done a lot of more of as I look back on it now. There’s too much of a diet of crime, murder and mayhem,” Meincke said.

Mr. Porterfield stayed in touch with many of the people he profiled, said Dorothy Tucker, an investigative reporter with WBBM-Channel 2 and past president of the National Association of Black Journalists.

“Harry was for real. He was genuine. When I came to the station in 1984 I was a young reporter, and Harry always let me know he was there for support and to answer questions and for guidance and to listen and just be there,” she said.

“We all looked up to Harry as the statesman in the newsroom. He never got rattled or angry. He was always calm and the voice of reason,” Tucker said.

Mr. Porterfield started his Chicago broadcast career at WBBM-Channel 2 in 1964 and spent 21 years at the station before moving to WLS-TV Channel 7 in 1985, where he worked for 24 years. He returned to WBBM in 2009 and retired in 2015 at age 87.

His job change in 1985 was sparked by a demotion to make room for news anchor Bill Kurtis at WBBM. Mr. Porterfield’s departure from WBBM, which some saw as forced, prompted the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson to orchestrate a 10-month viewer boycott against the station that resulted in an agreement to increase minority hiring.

Mr. Porterfield, who had been the station’s only African American weekday news anchor, was proud the end result was more job opportunities for minority journalists.

Mr. Porterfield was born Aug. 29, 1928, in Saginaw, Michigan, to Viola, a homemaker, and Harry Porterfield Sr., who owned an automobile service station. He graduated from Saginaw’s Arthur Hill High School in 1946. In 1951, he was drafted by the Army during the Korean War and served less than two years in Germany before returning home to earn a degree in chemistry from Eastern Michigan University.

Mr. Porterfield, who loved music, couldn’t find work as a chemist and “kind of fell into radio,” his granddaughter said.

He began working at a radio station in Saginaw as a jazz disc jockey and later as a cameraman and stagehand with an affiliated television station before moving to Chicago in 1964, where he started off as a news writer before becoming a reporter at WBBM.


Harry Porterfield


Mr. Porterfield received numerous community awards, 11 regional Emmy Awards and a Studs Terkel Award.

He was inducted into the Silver Circle of the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 1998.

“He loved his work. He put a lot of effort into it. He was a perfectionist,” his granddaughter said. “He rarely missed a day and worked holidays until late in his career. We would always wait for him to get home to have Thanksgiving.”

Harry Porterfield (shown in a 1990 photo at a local fundraising event) loved to play the violin.

An accomplished violinist, Harry Porterfield performs in 1990 at a local fundraising gala. He was a volunteer member of the orchestra for Chicago’s annual “Do-It-Yourself Messiah” for more than 40 years.

Sun-Times File

Mr. Porterfield earned a law degree from DePaul University in 1993 at the age of 65.

“He wanted to see where all the decisions within our legal systems were made and why,” his wife, Marianita Porterfield, said.

“He always told me every journalist should have a law degree so they’re fully informed about our justice system,” his granddaughter said.

Mr. Porterfield lived in the Miller Beach neighborhood in Gary, Indiana, for more than 50 years until moving recently to Munster.

He played the violin with several groups. Most notably, he was a volunteer member of the orchestra for the “Do-It-Yourself Messiah” for more than 40 years, family said. And he loved hanging out at Andy’s Jazz Club in downtown Chicago.

In addition to his granddaughter and wife, Mr. Porterfield is survived by his children Eric Shropshire, Gina Shropshire, Harry Porterfield III and Allison Porterfield-Woods, and one great-grandchild.

Funeral arrangements are pending, and a public memorial in Chicago is being planned.

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