John D. (Jack) Shelley, 98, of Ames, died Tuesday, September 14 at Northcrest Retirement Community. Visitation is 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, September 20 at Adams Funeral Home. Memorial Services will be 11 a.m. Tuesday, September 21 at St. Johns by the Campus Episcopal Parish. Inurnment will be in the Linwood Cemetery, Boone.
Jack was born March 8, 1912 in Boone to John J. and Harriett (Holmberg) Shelley. He married Catherine in 1937. She preceded him in death in 1993. He married Dorothy Thomson in 1996.
Jack Shelley was Professor Emeritus of Journalism and Mass Communication at Iowa State University, Ames, and a graduate of the School of Journalism of the University of Missouri - Columbia.
Before joining the Iowa State faculty to head the program in broadcast journalism, Shelley was on the staff of WHO Radio and Television, Des Moines, Iowa, for 30 years -- 25 years as News Director. He began his long career at WHO in the mid-1930's, where he was soon joined by a sportscaster named Ronald Reagan. Reagan, then President of the United States, was one of many who saluted Shelley upon his retirement from Iowa State.
Shelley was a war correspondent during World War II, covering the famous "Battle of the Bulge" in the European theater and the surrender of the Japanese on the battleship Missouri at the end of the conflict (he was on the Missouri and observed the surrender ceremony firsthand, later transmitting one of the first descriptions of the ceremony to reach the United States). Earlier, he and another reporter obtained the first recorded interviews with the U. S. Army Air Force flyers who dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.
After the war, Shelley was one of 20 news reporters chosen by lot to go into trenches with U. S. servicemen who were "guinea pigs" in testing the effects of a Hiroshima-sized nuclear device at Yucca Flats, Nevada. He was about two miles from the tower atop which the bomb was detonated; his portable tape recorder was one of the few to survive with a usable reproduction of the sounds of that event. Two years later, he observed a second atomic blast in Nevada, and shortly after that accompanied Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev on a visit to an Iowa farm.
For years, Shelley's 8:00 a.m. "How's the Weather?" show and 12:30 p.m. news broadcast were the highest-rated programs in Iowa radio history, and were heard throughout the state. Before leaving WHO, he anchored the 10:00 p.m. television news. His broadcasting trademark was to end each program with a funny story - even on days when the news provided little to laugh about.
In 1966, Shelley was recruited by Iowa State President Robert Parks to head the broadcast journalist program at ISU: an unusual achievement for a person whose only academic degree was a Bachelor's of Journalism. He taught and led that program until his retirement at age 70 in 1983.
Shelley was a founder and past President of the Radio-Television News Directors Association, the professional organization for persons engaged in broadcast news. RTNDA has members in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and numerous other countries.
From 1968-88, Shelley was Executive Director of the Iowa Broadcasters Association, whose membership includes most of the radio and television stations in the state. In 1980, IBA gave him its top award by naming him "Broadcaster of the Year." When he retired as Executive Secretary in 1988, they conferred on him their Distinguished Service Award.
For six years Shelley was a member of the accreditation committee of the American Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication -- the agency which accredits programs in professional journalism education at universities throughout the U.S. In 1983, the Radio-TV Division of the Association of Education in Journalism and Mass Communication made Shelley the first winner of its Distinguished Broadcast Journalism Educator award.
Other awards he has received include the Honor Medal of the University of Missouri School of Journalism for Distinguished Service in Journalism; the Mitchell V. Charnley Award of the six-state Northwest Broadcast News Association, based at the University of Minnesota, also for "Distinguished Service;" the "Outstanding Teacher" award from Iowa State University; and the Faculty Citation from the ISU Alumni Association for "long and inspiring service." The Iowa Broadcast News Association has named its top award to broadcast journalists the "Jack Shelley Award," and the Northwest Broadcast News Association, affiliated with the University of Minnesota, presents an annual scholarship in his name.
In October, 1993, the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at Iowa State University conferred on him its top honor, the James W. Schwartz Award. In 1996, the Ames Daily Tribune named him "Ames Citizen of the Year."
Shelley is a past president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council; he was named by the Iowa Supreme Court to a special committee appointed in 1979 to advise the court on use of cameras and recorders in courtrooms. He is also a past president of the Boone County Historical Society, which among its other activities operates the Moingona, Iowa, museum named after his aunt, Kate Shelley, who in 1881 became Iowa's most famous railroad heroine.
In February, 1997, the Des Moines Sunday Register carried a featured article about Shelley -- the first of a series about what the paper called "Iowa's Living Legends." The article said that as a broadcaster, his had been "the most trusted voice in Iowa."
At its year 2000 international convention in Minneapolis, the Radio-Television News Directors Association gave Shelley its John S. Hogan Award, named for the association's first president. The occasion marked the 50th anniversary of the year when Shelley served as RTNDA's third president. Other recipients of the Hogan Award include Hugh Downs and Walter Cronkite.
On September 2, 2001, Shelley was an invited speaker during a ceremony commemorating the 56th anniversary of the signing of the Japanese surrender treaty, ending World War II. The observance was held aboard the USS Missouri, now anchored in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, just a short distance from the memorial marking the sunken USS Arizona, a victim of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941. The ceremony marked the first time Shelley had been on the Missouri since the surrender occurred on September 2, 1945.
In March, 2002, McMillen Publishing of Ames issued a biography, in both hardbound and paperback editions, entitled "Jack Shelley and the News." The author, ISU emeritus professor of speech Dr. Robert Underhill, spent nearly two years of research on the project. Each edition includes audio CD recordings of Shelley's most historic World War II broadcasts and his report from the trenches at the atomic bomb test mentioned above.
He is survived by his wife, Dorothy; sons, John (Patricia) Shelley and Stephen (Janine) Shelley; four grandchildren; three great grandchildren; step-sons; Craig (Roberta) and Raymond (Becky) Thomson.
He was preceded in death by his first wife, Catherine Shelley in 1993;
Memorial gifts may be given to St. John's By the Campus Episcopal Church, 2338 Lincoln Way, Ames, IA 50014; Jack Shelley Memorial Fund, Greenlee School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Hamilton Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50010-00001; University of Missouri School of Journalism, Office of Development, 103 Neff Hall, Columbia, MO 65211; or the Boone County Historical Society, 602 Story Street, Boone, IA 50036.
Adams Funeral Home and Cremation Service is assisting the family.
Published in the Des Moines Register on Sep. 17, 2010.