Remembering Houston news legend Ron Stone

For 30 years, Ron Stone anchored the nightly news in Houston, Texas, where I grew up; he died of cancer yesterday, at the age of 72. Even though I hadn’t heard his voice in a good 15 years, my hunt for YouTube videos brought childhood rushing back: our old house with its brown shag carpet, my dad’s ratty chair and the pipes he used to smoke, my mom making dinner in the kitchen, and how Stone’s traditional signoff of "Good night, neighbors" meant it was almost time to eat. Of course, this was in the days before we were brainwashed with the corneal-spasm graphics and screechy transition sounds that have come to define modern "news." All Stone needed was good writing, a lack of condescension, and his round, friendly face to hold court for half an hour. I was captivated by him.

Stone may have been born in Oklahoma, but became a Texan through and through when a news director by the name of Dan Rather — yes, that Dan Rather — brought him to the local CBS affiliate in 1961. Stone fit perfectly into the folksy-yet-wry rhythms of Houstonian life, and in 1972, he moved to the NBC affiliate where he’d work until his retirement in 1992. He brought us the Berlin Wall collapsing and made the conflicts in the Middle East seem right next door; he traveled around the state and kept Texas history and heritage a regular part of our big-city lives. Most of all, his rapport with weatherman Doug Johnson (another Houston legend) was the kind of relationship every news anchor in this country is trying to fake with their coworkers right now: affection with a light dusting of mockery, and just wacky enough to keep a kid like me watching.

This morning, my mother reminded me of something I’d forgotten, though now it’s come rushing back, too: The summer before fourth grade, I broke both of my arms at the same time by jumping a little too enthusiastically off a swingset. I was not happy. And one sweltering evening, as I lay immobile on the sofa with my casts heavy across my chest, Ron Stone used the end of his Channel 2 News broadcast to tell me to get well soon. Me! He was talking to me! Why? Because my dad had met him at the mall or something, and asked him to. If that’s not being in touch with the community you serve — all four million people, even the stupid klutzy tomboy from Bunker Hill — I don’t know what is. So RIP, Ron. They say Texas means "friend," and you were one of its best.

PopWatchers, I hope you’ll read this obit, complete with condolences from President Bush — yes, that President Bush — watch some of the tributes from his colleagues here, and check out these YouTube clips of Stone’s work. Meanwhile, why not use the comment section to pay tribute to Stone (if you’re from Houston) or share memories of your own favorite local newscasters?

Comments (23 total) Add your comment
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  • ss

    Houston truly lost a legend when Ron Stone passed away this week. I had the fortune of growing up with a true news legend that we were able to watch night after night. I was just a kid when he was on the air, but I was truly lucky when I was offered an internship at Channel 2 when his son, Ron Stone Jr., was there, and I gleaned from him what his father must’ve been like in that newsroom. After graduating from college, I happened to write some stories for a coffee table book about Houston businesses that Ron Stone’s company produced, and I’ll hold it dear to my heart with memories of this Texas Legend. Good night Ron Stone.

  • Ben

    I grew up here in Houston watching Ron Stone interacting with weatherman, Doug Johnson. You summed it up pretty well, Whitney. The man was one of a kind and it was a sad day when he retired and even sadder day when he passed away. He was beyond a newscaster. When he spoke on tv, it was like you were listening to an old friend or a family member. Every word was entertaining or worth listening to. With Johnson and Stone, Channel 2 had the best team on local Houston TV for many years. Dave Ward is the closest we have left to the kind of man Stone was, but Ron Stone was unique. If he had been willing, I think he would have been great on the national news for one of the networks, but I think Stone wanted to stay where he was because he probably couldn’t bear to leave all of us friends and neighbors behind.

  • Jim kellogg

    RIP.. Ron Stone you will be missed in Texas..Say hello to my dad sir he always made us watch you.

  • Laura

    I’m from Houston, but he definitely retired before I was old enough to recognize the newscasters. Marvin Zindler’s death was just as sad for me though, it’s still confusing to watch the news and not see him there.

  • Jill

    Whitney,
    If someone has asked me yesterday who Ron Stone was, the name would have sounded vaguely familar but that’s all. Thanks to these youtube clips, however, I am having very vivid Houstonian childhood memories. He and Doug were quite the tag team.
    R.I.P. Ron

  • Becky

    It’s odd, but sometimes as I watch my local Denver news, I thing–they can’t hold a candle to Ron Stone. Guess I’m not alone in my sentiments.
    Good night neighbor!

  • Monica

    Thank you for paying tribute to our local legend. I was really young when he anchored the news and while the name sounded familiar the face escaped me. From the moment the youtube video started I was staring at the wonderful friendly face that I instanty remembered. Goodnight neighboor, you will be missed.

  • Lauren

    Thanks for this blog entry, Whitney. My memories are the same…as soon as Ron signed off, it was time for Mom’s hamburger surprise. And do you remember how the phone rang off the hook as soon as he mentioned you and your broken arms? Here’s the strange part – when I was very young I seriously used to think that Statler and Waldorf were the Muppet versions of Ron Stone and Doug Johnson. Do an image comparison. It’s remarkable. :)

  • GREG

    RIP Ron. I not only grew up watching Stone, Jan Carson, Doug Johnson, and Craig Roberts on Channel 2 news, but I really enjoyed watching The Eyes Of Texas every week. He always had great stories, places, and characters on there. They are doing a newer version of the show now, but its just not the same. Thank you for writing about this Texas legend.

  • Papa

    Very nice memories of you sitting in my lap watching Ron and Doug. I had the opportunity to meet Ron several times and he was as gratious in person as on the air.I was the one who told him about your attempt to fly. I would suggest you send your blog to the Chronicle.
    Pop

  • Papa

    Very nice memories of you sitting in my lap watching Ron and Doug. I had the opportunity to meet Ron several times and he was as gratious in person as on the air.I was the one who told him about your attempt to fly. I would suggest you send your blog to the Chronicle.
    Pop

  • Hollie

    I am so sadden to hear of Ron Stone’s death. He was the ultimate newscaster, a gentleman, and a really nice guy. There just aren’t any real good newscasters left around anymore. Good Bless Ron Stone and his family.

  • Lisa

    Ron Stone and Doug Johnson made watching the news something to look forward to. Haven’t seen a team like that since.

  • Maurice Ordóñez

    To this day whenever I hear of Presidio, TX I fondly recall Ron Stone sounding off the Charge! call off camera when Sid Lasher would announce that town as being the hottest spot in the country for that day. Ron had the greatest ease on camera I have ever seen.

  • Toni

    Wow. Your memories are my memories! Daddy loved his pipe (and green Koolaid) and we knew all the Hamburger Helper flavors very well. Watching Ron Stone was like watching a friend or an uncle to me. He and Doug Johnson were the best Houston newsmen ever. Those were the days.

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