Longtime WGN weatherman Jim Ramsey dies at 69

Ramsey worked weekend broadcasts and backed up Tom Skilling for 30 years.

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Jim Ramsey

Jim Ramsey

WGN-TV Channel 9

Former WGN weatherman Jim Ramsey, whose signature baritone voice and kindly demeanor were staples of the network’s news broadcasts for three decades, has died at age 69, the network announced Friday.

Ramsey handled weekend and morning broadcasts and filled in for Tom Skilling, spending 30 years at the station before retiring in 2017.

A native of South Carolina, Ramsey began his career as an anchor in Greenville, S.C., in 1975, working his way up through several larger markets before arriving at ABC-7 in Chicago in 1980, according to a farewell segment aired by the network when he retired. Ramsey moved to Washington, D.C., for a three-year stint before returning to Chicago to begin a three-decade run at WGN.

In an appreciation posted Friday on Facebook, Skilling remembered sharing laughs with his former colleague and expressed admiration for Ramsey’s “awesome” voice.

“He possessed one of those awesome, mellifluous voices any of us in broadcasting wish we possessed, perfect for broadcast work — the kind of voice which was at once authoritative— but also comforting.”

The voice and the flair for broadcasting were inherited from his father, who worked in radio in South Carolina, Ramsey’s stepdaughter, Vanessa, said in a text message Friday.

While his stentorian voice made whatever he said sound serious, Ramsey’s sense of humor was on daily display once he took over forecasting duties on WGN’s morning news. His good-natured charm and Southern gentility were the same on and off camera.

Ramsey enjoyed nothing more than spending time with his family and casting a fishing line into his backyard pond.

“I feel like I can say with great certainty that the Jim America loved and respected was the same Jim we had at home off-camera,” his stepdaughter wrote. “What defined Jim the most was his love and dedication to his family. He never understood the fuss over him being on TV.”

Ramsey did understand, and appreciate, the bond with viewers that developed during his years in Chicago.

“When you do weather for a living, and I think Tom Skilling would back me up on this, people really do tend to feel a kinship to you,” he said during the final seconds of his farewell broadcast in 2017. “I’ve been touched by that. I’m here in large measure because I love Chicagoans.”

Jim Ramsey was an avid angler.

Jim Ramsey was an avid angler.


Jim Ramsey enjoyed fishing in his backyard pond.

Jim Ramsey enjoyed fishing in his backyard pond.


Weather producer Bill Snyder and anchor Tahman Bradley were among the former WGN staffers mourning Ramsey’s passing on social media.

Ramsey is survived by his wife of 16 years, Leslie; son, James; and stepchildren Angel, Chrissy, Vanessa and Mark.

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