John Coleman, the father of The Weather Channel and the court jester of “happy talk” news in Chicago, is calling it quits after more than 60 years in the weather business.
Coleman, 79, spent the last 20 years as chief meteorologist at KUSI-TV in San Diego. He surprised his colleagues by announcing his retirement Thursday while he was out of town attending a tropical weather conference in South Padre Island, Texas.
“Now is the time to wind down the professional working part of my life and make the most of my private time in the years I have left,” he wrote in a farewell letter.
Coleman was a household name in Chicago from 1968 to 1979 when his outrageous on-air antics at WLS-Channel 7 — such as standing on his head or spritzing seltzer at news anchors Fahey Flynn and Joel Daly — came to epitomize the ABC-owned station’s “happy talk” era. “John Coleman was a clown, a showman. But he was also brilliant,” Daly wrote of him in his recent memoir.
He went on to become national weatherman for ABC’s “Good Morning America” in 1977 and head The Weather Channel, the 24-hour cable weather service he founded in 1982.
In 1984, he returned to Chicago and spent six years at NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5. “Chicago was where I had my happiest, most successful years,” he said at the time. “Besides, I spent a lot of time in Wrigley Field and I want to be here when the Cubs take the pennant.”
The Texas-born Coleman began his broadcasting career in 1953 at WCIA-TV in Champaign, while attending the University of Illinois. After graduation, he worked for stations in Peoria, Omaha and Mlwaukee before landing at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2 here in 1967. He joined ABC 7 the following year.
In recent years he’s been an outspoken skeptic of global warming, calling it “the greatest scam in history” and declaring it “a threat to our economy and our civilization.”
Here is the full text of the letter Coleman wrote Thursday:
Thank you and goodbye.
Nothing is forever. The universe, the galaxy, the solar system, the sun, Earth… every species fades away in time. We individual people are very small and very temporary parts of the big picture.
Now is the time to wind down the professional working part of my life and make the most of my private time in the years I have left.
Thanks to my fellow team members, you have been very kind and patient with me and helped me along when the going got tough.
I’m grateful to you all. I wish you all every success and happiness.
Most of all, thank you to the San Diego viewers who have been kind enough to watch me and support my efforts through thick and thin. I owe everything to you!
And now, goodbye!