PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — CBS3 anchor Ukee Washington talked with senior investigative reporter Walt Hunter about his illustrious career and his retirement today from CBS3. It’s simple, Walt says: After 36 years, it’s time.
“It’s almost like graduating from a college that you love,” Walt said. “It’s commencement time, I’d love to stay, but there’s another world out there.”
Walt started his journalism career working in newspapers and radio, but when he joined Eyewitness News in 1980, he found his home.
“He was always there, running around like a lunatic trying to get the latest story or scoop,” said former Philadelphia district attorney and judge Lynne Abraham.
“He was like a bulldog, a bulldog who got hold of your ankle and wouldn’t let go,” said former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell.
Sometimes Walt literally reported under fire, including as shots rang out during the MOVE confrontation and bombing in 1985, where 11 people, including five children, died.
“What do you remember about that?” Ukee Washington asked.
“I was just almost out of my mind,” Walt said. “I don’t think I’ve ever told this story on TV before, but I went home, and I went to the back patio of my house. I just started screaming, just almost out of my mind thinking about people dying so needlessly.”
Walt has been on the scene of some of the biggest stories, including, sadly, police shootings.
“I’m at the scene at so many police officers who are shot or wounded in terrible ways,” Walt said. He keeps photos at his desk.
Former Philadelphia police commissioner Charles Ramsey said, “I think Walt felt himself the impact that it had on the entire department and entire city. The fact that he holds onto those photographs means a lot to me personally.”
Walt is a Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Famer. He has more than 20 Emmys and dozens more awards from journalism organizations. Last week, Philadelphia Police gave him a citizens commendation. Walt does not plan to rest on his laurels.
“I want to write. I want to speak to people. I have the opportunity, thank God, with my health, with my family, to try to do other things,” Walt said.
“We’re losing one of a vanishing breed in my judgment,” Rendell said.
Abraham said, “Walt knew how to hit the soul and the heart of matters and people and that meant something to people.”
“And that’s not that others can’t step in and fill that void,” Ramsey said, “but there will never be another Walt Hunter.”