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CBS's Jimmy Wall dies

Jimmy Wall -- one of the last people alive to have starred on "Captain Kangaroo" -- has died at age 92. 

One of the most amazing things about  Wall, who played Mr. Baxter, is that he has been a stage manager at CBS News for exactly half a century.

Here's the obit from CBS.



James (Jimmy) Wall, Captain Kangaroo’s knowledgeable
neighbor “Mr. Baxter” on the children’s show during the
1960s and 70s and a beloved character around the studios of 
CBS Broadcast Center in Manhattan, where he worked as a
stage manager for nearly 50 years, has died at the age of
92.  He lived in Manhattan and died in his sleep last night
(27) after a short illness.

 

            Wall had been the stage manager for the Captain
Kangaroo show since 1962, when he joined CBS, before
persuading the show’s producers to create its first black
character.  Wall, a talented former vaudevillian with a
wonderful voice and kindly demeanor got the regular role of
Mr. Baxter in 1968.  He played Baxter and another recurring
role on the show until 1978.

 

            At the same time, Wall was the stage manager for
many CBS, CBS News and CBS Sports broadcasts, including THE
CBS EVENING NEWS, FACE THE NATION, 60 MINUTES, NFL TODAY and
in 2008, he was recognized on the air for his 41st
consecutive year as stage manager of the U.S. OPEN TENNIS
CHAMPIONSHIPS.  He also stage managed coverage of political
conventions, presidential inaugurations, election coverage
and space launches of the 1960s.  

 

            The stage manager’s role is to be the director’s
eyes and ears on the set in addition to other tasks, most
prominent of which was the countdown to air for a live
broadcast.

 

            In a rich baritone that could call a busy
newsroom to attention, Wall counted the time to air for the

likes of Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather as stage manager for
THE CBS EVENING NEWS from the 1960s through the 1980s.  “TWO
MINUTES TO AIR”  began his count and eventually, “IN FIVE,”
he would intone, and count down until a flip of his hand
indicated the anchor was on live television.  

 

            Wall semi-retired in 1988 at the age of 71, but
continued to work regularly as a fill-in stage manager for
THE CBS EVENING NEWS and 60 MINUTES showing up – always on
time – as often as several times a week right up until last
year, when he was 91.   In one of Mike Wallace’s last
tapings, the 60 MINUTES correspondent made reference to his
own advanced age and that he was the senior person on set. 
Wallace’s old friend Jimmy had to correct him, reminding him
that he had him by five months.

 

            Known by thousands of CBS employees through the
years, Wall was a person whose eclectic life and fascinating
career made for a never-ending string of stories.  Wall went
to sea as 15 yr-old, had delivered sugar for New York
bootlegger’s stills during Prohibition, and became a singer
and dancer in a series of Vaudeville acts that took him
around the country and put him on Broadway stages before he
was drafted by the Army.  He went to Europe, where he became
a master sergeant involved in USO shows that he staged
throughout the continent.

 

            He was a card player, a pool shark and an avid
golfer who boasted he could shoot his age and did, still
hitting the links after his 90th birthday.

 

            Walls attended college on the G.I. Bill when he
left the Army and continued his love affair with the theater
through the 1950s.  He played various roles in New York
stage productions, often stage managing and performing in
the same show, before joining CBS to become the second black
stage manager hired by the Network.

 

            The Director’s Guild of America gave Wall its
Franklin J. Schaffner achievement Award in 1994.

 

            James Earl Wall was born Dec. 12, 1917 in
Wilmington, NC.  He lived there until he was 9 years old,
when his father, a barber, moved the family to New York
City. Young “JE,” as his mother sometimes called him,
attended public schools in Brooklyn, including a commercial
high school where he took vocational art courses.

 

            He is survived by his wife, VT  (Dolly) Wall,
whom he married in 1942.

 

 

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