Services scheduled for veteran Central Texas newscaster

Jim Ham. (Funeral home photo)
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TEMPLE, Texas (KWTX) Funeral services have been scheduled for veteran KCEN-TV broadcaster James K. "Jim" Ham who died over the weekend, leaving a legacy of local news coverage that was a pathway for others who followed.

Ham died Saturday at the age of 91.

Visitation is scheduled from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Harper Talasek Funeral Home at 500 West Barton Avenue in Temple.

The funeral service begins at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Christ Episcopal Church at 300 North Main St. in Temple.

Ham was a 1945 graduate of Temple High School and a 1948 graduate of Temple Junior College who served in the Merchant Marines during World War II and started his broadcasting career at KTEM radio.

After working at other stations in Waco and Houston, he joined KCEN-TV in the 1960s as a reporter and later became a news anchor and weather forecaster before he was named the station’s news director, a job he held until his retirement in 1981.

"Not often does a young man grow up and actually get to follow his idol in the business, but that's what happened to me and Jim Ham was the reason why," Tony Hennes, also a former news anchor and news director at Channel 6, said.

Ham joined the KCEN-TV news team in the 1960s as a reporter, later became news anchor and finally served as news director for the NBC affiliate.

"Jim was a true fixture on television here in Central Texas back then," Hennes said,

"He was a mentor to reporters and anchors and had a dramatic impact."

Those who worked with Ham sang his praises, and those who competed with him did so as well.

"He was an old pro, a great competitor and his presence and voice on television was very authoritative," former News 10 anchor Ron Hall said. "People believed what he said."

Hall said Ham was at home whether talking with a dirt farmer or the president.

"He just had a way of getting people to talk and of making their stories seem important," Hall said.

"I always liked him and admired him for that."

Roscoe Harrison, pastor of the Eighth Street Baptist Church in Temple, had a long career in both print and broadcast media and for several years worked for Ham at KCEN.

Harrison said the two were very close and only a couple of months ago spent some time together.

"He was one of the best newsmen in this area. He was legendary," Harrison remembered.

Harrison said Ham and Hennes had been talking about a planned KCEN reunion, which is set for later this month, and that Ham had been excited about attending.