Longtime Texas broadcaster Gary DeLaune, who over his career covered everything from major news events including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to sports and feature stories, has died. He was 88.
DeLaune, who worked for San Antonio television station KENS 5 for 28 years, died Sunday, said Deborah Knapp, an anchor with the station who spoke with his family. He retired from the station in 1999.
Known for wearing colorful and sometimes gaudy sports coats, DeLaune also spent about six decades calling high school football on the radio and was even calling games last season on television.
“He was just beloved here,” said longtime friend Richard Oliver, a former sports editor at the San Antonio Express-News who called games alongside DeLaune. “He was just one of those faces that everyone recognized as being part of the San Antonio landscape for all of those years.”
Knapp said DeLaune loved telling the stories of regular people, and would often find “zany” ways to do it.
“He once talked to a World War II vet who every day went down to the ice house and would sit on a block of ice, so Gary went and sat on a block of ice with him and did the interview there,” she said.
DeLaune was working at Dallas radio station KLIF when Kennedy was fatally shot at 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 22, 1963, by Lee Harvey Oswald as the presidential motorcade passed through downtown.
News from around the state of Texas.
Four minutes later, at 12:34 p.m., the wire service United Press International sent the first word that shots had been fired at the motorcade. UPI reporter Merriman Smith, who was several cars back in the motorcade, had called it in from a radiotelephone.
DeLaune was at KLIF when someone from another Texas radio station called two minutes after the wire report went out asking DeLaune what he knew, said Farris Rookstool III, a historian, and former FBI analyst. Rookstool said that after calling Dallas police to confirm the report, DeLaune broke in on the song “I Have a Boyfriend” by the Chiffons to tell his listeners at 12:38 p.m.
Rookstool said an FBI dispatcher heard DeLaune’s broadcast and notified the agents in the Dallas field office.
“Gary’s initial broadcast is really what set into motion a lot of people in Dallas suddenly hearing,” said Rookstool, a longtime friend of DeLaune’s.
When nightclub owner Jack Ruby fatally shot Oswald two days later, DeLaune was among reporters in the police station basement. He recounted at a forum in 2013 seeing the movement from Ruby and then being knocked over a rail. He later covered Ruby’s trial.
In 1979, DeLaune was covering the Battle of the Flowers parade in San Antonio when a man opened fire on the crowd, killing two and wounding dozens.
In a KENS 5 story from 2019, DeLaune recalled working to cover the shooting. “It was just like a battlefield. The glass shards were flying over me as I was crawling along,” he said.
He’s been inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame and the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame.
Oliver said that DeLaune was the kind of person who “would just wrap you up in his personality and in his friendliness and in his heart.”
“I’m just going to miss him terribly,” Oliver said.