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WFAA8 anchor John McCaa now in final day of his rehearsals for retirement


It’s all systems go for WFAA8 anchor John McCaa. Photos: Ed Bark

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
IRVING -- WFAA8 has orchestrated a long goodbye for anchor John McCaa while the honoree and his wife, Nora, seem more than content to just count the days.

During an interview last Friday, they give every indication of happily turning this page and beginning new chapters. Nora and John’s art-festooned home is already on the market, with a move out of the D-FW market coming soon. The McCaas plan to relocate to the McAllen, TX area, where much of her family still lives. The idea is to have either a new home built from scratch or an existing one custom-fitted to their specifications. And if Nora has her way, her husband of nearly 20 years will be marrying one of her passions -- bird-watching -- with one of his -- photography. Whatever happens, he won’t be anchored to a desk anymore.

The impetus came during the Christmas season of 2015. McCaa, who’d had a pair of back teeth extracted, was healing before having them replaced with implants. But while eating a piece of french break “with the teeth on the opposite side of my mouth, I heard something that sounded similar to the cracking of ice underfoot in the winter,” he told unclebarky.com at the time. “I immediately experienced some of the worst pain I have ever had.”

He was off the air for more than a month. “That’s when I started thinking, ‘You know, you’re getting up there,” McCaa recalls. “I need to slow down.”

“I wasn’t going to push him one way or the other,” Nora McCaa says. “But I saw him make a change in his attitude. We just slowly started weeding things out of the house and making plans to move eventually.”

McCaa, who turned 65 on Sunday, Feb. 24th, has spent 35 of those years at WFAA8 after arriving in 1984 from an Omaha, Nebraska TV station. On Friday, March 1st, he’ll sign off at the end of the 10 p.m. newscast. D-FW’s longest standing African-American male anchor is a trailblazer in no small part. But he’s never been a self-aggrandizer, letting others shine spotlights on themselves in various ways while McCaa plays the rock-steady straight man. Or as he puts it, “the Ward Cleaver” of WFAA8’s newscasts amid the two resident Eddie Haskells -- sports anchor Dale Hansen and weathercaster Pete Delkus.

“If you want to be the newscast of record, so to speak, there has to be somebody who tries to keep the ship straight,” he says.

His father, Johnnie, a career military man, viewed rectitude as a virtue and instilled it in his son and John’s late sister, Debra, who passed away in August 2017. John still marvels at his now 88-year-old father’s “29-inch waist” and his workout regimen of two hours daily. And yes, Johnnie McCaa will be there Friday night for his son’s farewell newscast.

“Military families tend to be very private. And in Nebraska, people kind of hold you at a distance until they get to know you. That probably has a lot to do with it,” McCaa says of his less than effusive demeanor.

At Omaha’s WOWT-TV, where he spent seven-and-a-half years as an anchor, reporter and photographer, McCaa couldn’t help standing out because of the color of his skin. The city wasn’t exactly teeming with non-whites. Nor was television in terms of news anchors or reporters.

I’ve always had black and brown folk come up to me and say, ‘Look, we appreciate that you are where you are, but please don’t embarrass us,” McCaa says. “And I’ve taken that seriously.”

He’s long had a picture of orator/activist Frederick Douglass on his desk at WFAA8. This prompts him to bring up Empire co-star Jussie Smollett and his alleged staging of a hate crime in order to bring further attention to himself in hopes of getting a pay raise in the bargain.

“I’m so offended by this Jussie Smollett thing,” McCaa says. “Because I think that we all are where we are because other people have sacrificed to put us there. And when you cast that aside, it really hurts everybody. So do I think of myself in that sense as a trailblazer? I hope I’ve carried that banner the way people wanted me to. Have there been times when I’ve wanted to act like a fool? Oh yeah! But I won’t.”

Nora McCaa sees her husband’s trailblazing in a different way. They met while she worked in WFAA8’s publicity department. Both had previously been married and divorced, with neither wanting to risk going through it all again. But after their first date -- on Jan. 2, 1999, she specifically remembers -- they knew it wouldn’t be long before a second time for both. They made it official on March 15th of that same year.

“You know, I think his modesty really makes him a trailblazer as well,” Nora says. “Because in these times where everybody wants to say, ‘Look at me! Look at me!,’ John has never been like that. His modesty -- I think people appreciate that. People in our generation look at him and say this is the way it used to be, and this is the way it should be. They look at these younger kids and see that they just want to be on television. They don’t want to do the work -- and you can tell. John has always done his homework. He’s not only interesting, but interested. And that’s what sets him apart, I think.”


John and Nora McCaa look forward to catching up on life.

The two other women in John McCaa’s life have been Gloria Campos and Cynthia Izaguirre.

Campos, who retired from WFAA8 in March of 2014, began anchoring with McCaa in 1999 (first in a rotating threesome with Scott Sams before they made it just a twosome in 2002). Izaguirre eventually became Campos’ successor.

“I’ve known John my entire life,” Izaguirre says. “As a child I remember watching him on WFAA. Then I had the great honor of working with him. Sometimes I still can’t believe it. I’ve learned a lot from John, but mainly it’s his humility and kindness that will stay with me.”

Campos, who recently moved to a new home in Blanco County with her husband, Lance, joined WFAA8 in the same year McCaa did, 1984. She also co-anchored with two of the station’s earlier mainstays, Tracy Rowlett and the late Chip Moody.

“Tracy accepted me as a peer and Chip helped me bring out my own personality,” Campos says. “At first I was kind of afraid to do that. But with John, I feel he was the only one where we had a true partnership, where we were equals. I have great respect for Tracy and Chip, but John is special in that regard -- that we were partners.”

So much so that Gloria once confided to John that she was “receiving some really hateful, racist mail. I mean, it was really ugly. And it turned out that he was getting the same kind of letters, but had never said anything.”

Their nemesis, who turned out to be the same guy, then decided to send Faxes instead of letters. “And I run into John’s office, waving this Fax, because I knew we could now find him. And yep, we did. He was some guy living in a trailer in Glenn Heights. I called the police and they found him. And I still remember the gleam in John’s eye when he was tracking this guy down on his computer.”

Campos, who will be in WFAA8 studios on Friday night to help send McCaa off, says she’ll always cherish him as a “great mentor and journalist, but more importantly, a man of integrity. And I don’t know that I can say anything better about a person I’ve worked with, because it’s very important to me.”

McCaa regrets the day he let his standards slip, if only for a brief minute or two. In May of 2018, he was asked if he’d like to join early morning anchor Ron Corning in a picture where two young women staffers at WFAA8 were wearing t-shirts emblazoned with “Go to Bed With John, Wake Up With Ron.”

On the spur of the moment he did so, with the picture briefly becoming part of a cheeky promotional campaign. It was completely out of character, and McCaa says he almost immediately knew it.

“That’s certainly not how I would want a seventh grader to see me,” he says in retrospect. “Yeah, it’s cute, it’s funny, that sort of thing. But that’s not the part of Channel 8 I want to be known for. If I’m looking back 35 years, that’s going to be way, way down the list in terms of things I would remember fondly.”

“It was demeaning, I thought,” Nora McCaa adds. “I was offended by it -- really offended. Because it took away from my husband. That’s not the kind of person that he is.”

John McCaa feels likewise about ABC’s longest-running “reality-competition” show, The Bachelor. Everyone at the station knows “i’m not a fan,” he says. “They make it sound as if marriage is swapping slobber for a couple of dates and then you live happily ever after. Marriage is work. It’s a lot of work. And you don’t see that addressed anywhere on that program. You’re kind of belittling a really important institution.”

John and Nora have put in the hard work. And now it’s her turn to spend nights as well as days with him. She’d like to see him develop some other interests -- such as the aforementioned bird-watching. And as the youngest of eight children whose parents are still alive, she also wants him to “experience a large family” by living in close proximity rather than 460-some miles away.

“It’s a family decision to have a career like this, because it’s a public job” John says. “So you really have to pay attention to what your spouse is telling you.”

After earning a PhD in Humanities-History of Ideas from the University of Texas at Dallas,, McCaa also hopes to teach a single course in either media ethics or documentary editing. But there’s no big rush, and no plans to enter a classroom until at least the spring of 2020.

His successor at WFAA8, Chris Lawrence, will join Izaguirre on Monday, March 4th after a heavy promotional campaign heralding his arrival.

McCaa says he’ll most miss “getting up in the morning and trying to grasp what’s important to that night’s newscasts. But it’s OK,” he quickly adds. “I think I’ve done my share.”

Note to readers: For a closer look at John McCaa’s long-ago moonlighting as a standup comic, his love for playing the drums and much, much more, you can read an extended profile written a decade ago by yours truly for D CEO magazine. Here’s the link.

Email comments or questions to: uncleebarky@verizon.net