Jim Douglas, the Fort Worth-based reporter who has been with WFAA/Channel 8 for more than 20 years, announced Wednesday that he will retire from the station. His last day will be July 28.
Douglas, who is 60 and lives in Arlington, says the decision partly had to do with the health of his parents, who live in Cincinnati.
“Jim has come to the realization that his family in Ohio needs him more now,” says a memo news director Carolyn Mungo sent to WFAA staff. “While this decision was hard for him, he feels relieved to soon be able to attend to those needs on a more full time basis.”
He plans to travel back and forth from DFW to Cincinnati, but he will remain in Arlington, where he has longtime friends, is active in charity work and sings in the First Methodist Church choir.
“I want to be able to watch a few more baseball games with my dad,” Douglas told DFW.com, adding that he’s a little conflicted by the reitrement decision. But the rigors of TV reporting, with its frequent live shots and outdoor work, were also starting to wear on him. There was also an emotional toll. “I wasn’t sure I could take too much more knocking on doors and talking to grieving families,” he says.
Neverthless, Douglas says that those were the kind of stories he felt he did best. He reported on some tough stories during his career, including the Wedgwood Baptist Church shootings in Fort Worth in 1999, the mass slaying of 23 people in a Luby’s in Killeen in 1991, and the tornado that struck downtown Fort Worth in March 2000.
One of his most memorable reports was a trip to West Virginia, where he talked to Frank Buckles, the last surviving Army veteran who had served in France in World War I. Douglas followed David Hall, who rang a replica of the Liberty Bell at funerals for fallen service people, and took the replica to Charles Town, West Virginia, to honor the still-living Buckles, then 106 years old. (Buckles died in 2011 at age 110, according to his New York Times obituary.)
Douglas also reported on Hurricane Katrina, where one of his stories was on Joe Peters of the St. Claude Used Tire Shp, who repaired flat tires for free for survivors of the storm.
“While the National Guard and the police and all this armed presence surrounded him and all this violence was happening and all the horror happened, he was just out there fixing flat tires for all these cops and military personnel,” Douglas says. “He wouldn’t take their money. He’d just stand out and say, ‘sign the book, sign the book.’ He was this terrific character and it was very reaffirming to find that joy in that kind of nightmare.
Douglas came to the DFW market in 1985, spending 10 years as an anchor/reporter at KXAS/Channel 5 before moving over to WFAA. He began his career in radio news in Cincinnati, then moved to the TV side in 1983, with gigs in Louisville and then Mobile, Ala.
He covered other national stories such as the 2000 presidential race and international stories such as the Kosovo refugee crisis in the Balkans.
“Jim has always had the ability to combine the power of words with a keen understanding of the human condition,” Mungo said in her memo. “It's exactly why his stories are the ones we remember. And boy, will we remember Jim.”