Veteran Baton Rouge journalist Carlton Cremeens died Wednesday at St. Joseph Hospice. He was 89.
Visitation is Friday from 5-9 p.m. at Greenoaks Funeral Home, 9595 Florida Blvd, and continues Saturday from 10 a.m. until graveside services at 2 p.m. A reception and celebration of Cremeens’ life follows at Greenoaks Reception Hall.
Cremeens came to Baton Rouge in 1960 as news director and news anchor for WAFB-TV’s fledging news department. When he retired in December 1989, he was the senior news director in Baton Rouge broadcasting and one of a handful in the country who’d held a top news position for three decades. Then-Mayor Tom Ed McHugh even proclaimed Jan. 1, 1990, as “Carlton Cremeens Day” in honor of the veteran newsman.
Prior to coming to Baton Rouge, Cremeens served as news director for both TV and radio stations in Little Rock, Ark. While his journalism career was studded with accomplishments, including being named 1981 Communicator of the Year by the Public Relations Association of Louisiana, the Water Valley, Ark., native was also a nationally published writer.
Cremeens was perhaps best known for his ability to spot and nurture budding talent. He also put on the air Baton Rouge’s first black TV reporter, Ansel Creary; its first TV anchor woman, Mel Cafiero; and, in the mid-1980s, Cremeens took another daring step and launched a 5 p.m. newscast anchored by two women - Donna Britt and Melissa Lewis. It was an immediate success.
“He had a talent for finding young talent, and dozens of outstanding reporters and anchors got their start at WAFB and went on to larger markets and the networks after being trained by Carlton,” said John Spain, who was news director at WBRZ-TV during Cremeens’ tenure. “He was always a great competitor, and I enjoyed working with him.”
“Carlton loved to laugh and to make people laugh. But, there was a very serious side of Carlton as well, especially when it came to his craft, journalism,” said Nick Simonette, who followed Cremeens as WAFB’s news director. ”On a very personal note, Carlton taught me how to lead a newsroom with drive, fairness and compassion. There is an old saying that we stand on the shoulders of giants ? Carlton is one of those giants for me.”
”I worked for Carlton for 15 years, from ‘73 to ‘88. He was a good teacher. He had the journalism credentials, certainly, after having covered the Little Rock desegregation story,” said Chris McDaniel. “He had the trust of his audience during some very rough and divisive years of labor and racial violence in Baton Rouge in the ‘60s and ‘70s. And that would include the deep societal divisions over the Vietnam War.”
A Navy veteran, Cremeens saw duty in the Pacific during the entirety of World War II and participated in the invasion of Okinawa. He was preceded in death by his wife, Helen Johnson Cremeens, and their two children, John Carlton Cremeens and Paula Yvonne Cremeens Weigel.