Warner Saunders, a versatile Chicago television personality whose career spanned four decades at two stations, died Tuesday at 83.
Saunders collapsed at his home in Chicago and died at Illinois Masonic Hospital, according to NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5, where he spent 29 years as a news anchor, reporter, host and sportscaster.
In 1997 Saunders ascended to the top anchor role at NBC 5 when Ron Magers and Carol Marin resigned to protest the hiring of talk show host Jerry Springer as a commentator on the 10 p.m. newscast. Saunders remained in the position alongside Allison Rosati until he retired in 2009.
“Warner was a giant in our newsroom,” said Frank Whittaker, station manager and vice president of news at NBC 5. “So many of us relied on his advice and counsel as we covered stories each day. Viewers trusted him. He was genuine Chicago. We lost a big part of our history today.”
Saunders, a Chicago native and graduate of Xavier University and Northeastern Illinois University, joined NBC 5 in 1980 after eight years at CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2, where he hosted public affairs programs and other shows.
The winner of 20 Emmy Awards, Saunders was inducted in the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Silver Circle of the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 1995.