Always tough to lose a legend, and it seems we've been doing plenty of that lately around these parts.
Gordon Hinkley passed away a few months back, and now we're saying goodbye to Carl Zimmerman, one of the early deans of Milwaukee television news who built the WITI TV6 newsroom from the ground up. He started in 1959 and left the business in 1987--27 years ago this month--which means that someone who's now 30 probably never saw a Carl Zimmerman newscast or heard one of his editorials.
For anyone over 30, it's hard to imagine local TV news WITHOUT him, or to get your head around the fact that he's been away for more than a quarter century. Carl Zimmerman went on the air roughly the same time Henry Maier became Milwaukee's mayor and Harold Breier was settling in as police chief, men who would dictate the headlines for two decades. It was a time of William Proxmire and Gaylord Nelson, of Clement Zablocki and Henry Reuss, of Doyne and O'Donnell and Cupertino in Milwaukee County politics.
You hear the term "calming influence" a lot when a broadcast legend passes, and it fits Carl Zimmerman to a T. Through the assassinations, the riots, the civil rights battles, and all else that happened on his watch you felt better at the end of the night seeing and hearing about it all through a respected, trusted veteran.
One thing that happens when legends leave is that we get the chance to hear about their work from those who learned from them. We're hearing Monday morning from two folks who worked with Carl Zimmerman--Mike Miller and Jill Geisler--on Wisconsin's Morning News, and it was Jill who passed along a documentary, done at TV6 as Carl was stepping down in the spring of 1987. Mike is one of the interviewers, along with Vince Gibbens who would suddenly die nine years later. "The Zimmerman Years" is a half hour of a legend looking back, taking a peak into the future (he correctly predicts public education woes as one of the biggest issues the community would face), admitting he considered a run for Congress in the early 80's (he didn't like what Washington life would've done to his family) and saying he spurned offers from bigger markets because he liked the way viewers in Milwaukee treated him.
Carl Zimmerman would go on to have a vigorous, vibrant retirement life. He did an Honor Flight, joining other World War II veterans in D.C. for a day of remembrance and reflection. He stayed involved in the community he loved.
And, he remains the gold standard for those who got to work with him, and to those of us lucky enough to grow up watching him.