By Kevin Wing
Vice President, Board of Governors, San Francisco
Chair, Media Museum of Northern California
Jack Hanson, whose colorful career on the television airwaves of the San Francisco Bay Area spanned six decades, most notably for his nearly 25 years at KGO-TV in San Francisco, died peacefully early Sunday morning at his home in Marin County following a brief illness. He was 91.
From the late 1960s and on through the ‘70s and ‘80s, Hanson was one of KGO-TV’s most prolific and most popular television personalities. Relaxed, poised and always very comfortable in front of the TV cameras, he nearly did it all, from serving as a weatherman on Channel 7 “News Scene” with anchors Fred Van Amburg and Jerry Jensen to co-hosting the station’s’ popular “AM San Francisco” morning talk show alongside Nancy Fleming, who was crowned Miss America in 1961.
Hanson was born in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District in 1932. After high school, he attended San Francisco City College for six months, then entered the Army, which was followed by a stint in the Navy. After he returned to San Francisco, he attended San Francisco State University, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from the university’s prestigious radio and television department.
Hanson began his broadcast career in the mid-1950s working in the mailroom at KPIX in San Francisco after graduating from college. From the mailroom to becoming a stage manager, he went to work for KRON-TV, working on live shows such as NBC’s “Wide, Wide World”.
Hanson’s first appearance on television was seen nationally when he appeared, in 1959, as a 26-year-old contestant on “You Bet Your Life”, Groucho Marx’s popular 1950s syndicated game show. Hanson traded barbs with Marx before taking home more than $2,000.
In 1961, he started doing regular on-camera fill-in work. Hanson began working for KRON-TV in San Francisco that year as a stage manager on the popular children’s show, “The Mayor Art Show”. One day, Art Finley, the series’ host, called in sick. Hanson stepped in for him. The rest is history.
This was followed by a 13-week stint as host of “Watch and Win”, a live quiz show on KTVU in Oakland. By the mid-1960s, Hanson was hosting his own show, “Jack’s Place”, on KPIX. He interviewed celebrities and, being the accomplished cartoonist that he was, he would also draw cartoons, much to the delight of Bay Area viewers. His cartoons ultimately became his trademark.
In the late 1960s, he joined KGO-TV as a weatherman. To help illustrate the weather, especially when Hanson was talking about extreme cold weather or a heat wave, he would draw cartoons on the weather map – such as one caricature of a shivering dog at the coldest spot in the country.
In addition to providing weather forecasts on KGO-TV’s top-rated afternoon and evening newscasts throughout the 1970s and through the early ‘80s, Hanson also did double duty, co-hosting “AM San Francisco” for five years, from 1977 to 1982. So popular as a talk show host, he was sent down to Los Angeles often to fill in as co-host for KABC-TV’s “AM Los Angeles” and “Mid-Morning Los Angeles”.
Hanson’s career at KGO-TV lasted through the 1980s. During that time, he also co-hosted the station’s live 40th anniversary special alongside Russ Coughan in 1989.
From the 1990s and into the 21st century, Hanson continued on television, appearing as host of “Comcast Newsmakers”, which aired on CNN in between the cable network’s news segments.
As a published cartoonist, he also did artwork for the Sierra Club. Besides TV, he also appeared in movies, TV commercials and industrial TV programs. He also served as emcee for many charitable organizations’ telethons, including the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and the San Francisco Youth Guidance Center.
The San Francisco/Northern California Chapter of The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences inducted him in 2000 and 2008 into the distinguished Silver Circle and Gold Circle, respectively, for his more than 25 and 50 years of contributions to Bay Area and Northern California television.
Hanson is survived by his wife of 30 years, Pauline, and eight children.