Legendary TV News Anchor Tom Ellis made it big in Boston and New York. But he paid his dues back in his native Texas for many years before it paid off.
After various jobs in Texas radio, Ellis wrote and delivered a one-hour newscast. Jack Roth, owner of KONO radio in San Antonio, heard him and hired him as the station’s news anchor. Roth, who also owned Channel 12 in San Antonio, eventually hired Ellis as the TV news anchor there.
After establishing himself as a top TV news anchor in Texas, Ellis received a call on from Win Baker at WBZ-TV in Boston. Ellis flew to Boston for an interview at WBZ, but abruptly bolted their meeting to fly back to anchor the news in San Antonio. He hadn’t told anyone he was going to Boston.
A few days later, Mel Bernstein, the program manager, called Ellis and hired him for the ‘BZ job. Bernstein offered a 5-year contract, but Ellis bargained successfully for a bigger contract without an agent or lawyer. He proved to be worth every penny.
The ratings skyrocketed at WBZ with Ellis at the anchor desk. By the November ratings period, the newscasts were drawing over 50% of the audience. Baker tore up Ellis’ contract, gave him a raise, and reimbursed him for his moving expenses.
Two years after Ellis arrived in Boston, he met his dear wife, Arlene, who urged Ellis to get a lawyer. He did and Ellis was finally making top anchor money.
Following 7 terrific years at WBZ, Ellis headed to the Big Apple, anchoring at WABC for 3 successful years. In ‘78, Ellis returned to Boston to WCVB. There, Ellis co-anchored the top newscasts, alternating with the iconic Natalie Jacobson and her then-husband, Chet Curtis.
Four years later, Win Baker again intervened, luring Ellis to the revamped Channel 7, purchased by entrepreneur David Mugar. The newscast at Channel 7 (then WNEV) rated briefly at number one, and restored respectability to the station, perennially an also-ran.
In 1988, Ellis returned to New York City as a freelance anchor, reporter and actor. He did live shots, took acting classes and performed in soaps, movies and commercials. For a while, he commuted to Washington, DC to anchor a program on Trucker TV.
In 1994, Ellis got a call from NECN News Director Charlie Kravetz offering him an on-air tryout. He passed with flying colors and spent nearly 15 years at the weekend anchor desk at NECN until his final telecast on December 27, 2008.
What a remarkable career Tom Ellis has had. Aptly, Ellis was inducted into the prestigious Gold Circle by the Boston/New England Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in November 2011.
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