Editor’s Note: This month, we present an encore “Gold & Silver Circle Profiles” feature showcasing the life and career of Wayne Walker, who worked for San Francisco’s KPIX from 1974 to 1994. He was inducted into the Silver Circle in 1995. This profile was originally published in “Off Camera” in June 2017.
Silver Circle Class of 1995
During these last 10 years that I’ve been writing Gold & Silver Circle Profiles, I never had an opportunity to sit down personally with Wayne Walker. I always wanted to. Nor did I ever have a chance to work with him, or meet him. But, I sure wanted to. It just wasn’t meant to be.
That being said, and with his passing last month at the age of 80, I want to now honor him posthumously. This series about our Gold & Silver Circle inductees would never be complete without including him.
The San Francisco/Northern California Chapter of The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences inducted Walker into the Silver Circle in 1995, one year after retiring from Bay Area television, to commemorate his many contributions to Bay Area television. I grew up watching him on KPIX. For 20 years — from 1974 to 1994 — he was the station’s sports director and main sports anchor.
Everything Walker did, he was successful at it. Prior to his 20 successful years on Bay Area television, he played 15 seasons with the Detroit Lions. He was a star linebacker and placekicker for the team.
Wayne Harrison Walker was born September 30, 1936, in Boise, Idaho, where he was raised. Graduating from Boise High School in 1954, he played American Legion baseball. He passed on an offer to play in the minor leagues so that he could attend college.
In college, Walker played football at the University of Idaho. As a senior, in 1957, Walker was a team captain and was selected by the United Press as a second-team center on the All-Pacific team. In the East-West Shrine Game played in San Francisco later that year, he played on both sides of the ball.
Walker was selected by the Detroit Lions in the fourth round of the 1958 NFL draft, 45th overall, in December 1957, weeks before Detroit won the NFL title, their third of the decade. He played for the Lions for 15 years, from 1958 to 1972. Walker appeared in 200 games for the Lions, a franchise record that was later broken. He also scored 345 points, which ranked third in Lions history at the time of his 1972 retirement. As a placekicker, Walker converted 53 of 131 field goal attempts for a 40.5% success rate, the lowest field goal percentage in NFL history. On extra points, he converted 172 of 175 attempts for a 98.3% success rate.
Walker played in three Pro Bowls and was thrice selected as a first-team All-NFL player.
In 1974, Walker relocated to the Bay Area to go to work for KPIX, where he became a favorite with Bay Area viewers. With his easygoing delivery and warm smile, that was only fitting.
By the early 1980s, Walker and the Eyewitness News team of anchors Dave McElhatton and Wendy Tokuda and weatherman Joel Bartlett were catching on big time with Bay Area viewers, eventually becoming No. 1 in the market.
Walker’s sports segment on the news, Wayne Walker’s Sports Challenge, was extremely popular with viewers. His fans would write in, suggest a feat, and he’d do it. It made for great television.
Besides his work for KPIX, Walker was also a color commentator for the San Francisco 49ers’ radio broadcasts, from 1976 to 1980, and again, in 1985. He also did color commentary on regional NFL games for several years for CBS.
After retiring from Bay Area television, Walker moved back to Idaho. On May 19, he died in Boise at the age of 80 from complications from Parkinson’s disease.
He remains ninth on the Sports Illustrated list of greatest sports figures from Idaho.
As much as he was a legend on the playing field, Wayne Walker was a legend on Bay Area television. With this issue of Off Camera, we salute him and the legacy he left behind. He will not soon be forgotten.
Kevin Wing authors “Gold & Silver Circle Profiles” each month for “Off Camera” and has been penning the feature series since 2007. A two-time Emmy® Award-honored assignment editor, reporter, writer and producer and a 2013 Silver Circle inductee, Wing is a journalist with KNTV NBC Bay Area and a journalism professor at Ohlone College. He is also principal of Kevin Wing Media Communications, a Bay Area production company specializing in public sector and corporate video documentaries. He serves on the Board of Governors of the San Francisco/Northern California Chapter of The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and is editor of “Off Camera”.