NEW ORLEANS — Alec Gifford, a television pioneer who shot to stardom with his coverage of Hurricane Betsy, has died.
Gifford died Friday at 85, reports WDSU, his longtime employer.
The newsman worked in television for 51 years, with two long stints at WDSU separated by a year working for NBC news and 13 years working for another New Orleans station, WVUE.
Gifford worked as a reporter, anchor and news director. He was hired at WDSU in 1955, seven years after that station, the first in Louisiana, signed on. The station dominated New Orleans television in its early decades.
A New Orleans native, Gifford was the son of a newspaper reporter and the great-grandson of the man who published New Orleans’ last French-language newspaper.
He enlisted in the Navy at age 17, then attended college at Johns Hopkins University. He worked at radio stations in Baltimore and Texas before being hired in 1955 by Bill Monroe, WDSU’s first news director. Monroe went on to become NBC’s Washington bureau chief and moderator of “Meet the Press.”
During 1965’s Betsy, New Orleans mayor Vic Schiro famously told Gifford in a live interview, “Don’t believe any false rumors unless you hear them from me,” when asked about the extensive flooding the storm caused.
Much of that coverage was actually carried on WDSU’s sister radio station, because the city’s television stations were off the air.
“Followed him to his grave,” Mr. Gifford said many years later of the Schiro quote.
Gifford is survived by his wife, Delores, five children and eight grandchildren. The family plans a memorial service Tuesday that will be open to the public.