Former WFAA news anchor John Criswell, Wednesday’s Child originator, dies at 83
Criswell, a news anchor for WFAA from 1973 to 1990, died Wednesday in his Carrollton home, his family confirmed.
John Criswell was a longtime anchor at WFAA (Channel 8) and originator of its popular Wednesday’s Child segment.(KADOCH, Ariane / 115358)
By Tommy Cummings
July 14, 2023
John Criswell, a longtime anchor at WFAA (Channel 8) and originator of its popular Wednesday’s Child segment, has died, his family confirmed Thursday.
Criswell, 83, died Wednesday in his Carrollton home, his daughter, Kendra Branden, said.
Criswell was a news anchor for WFAA from 1973 to 1990. Criswell anchored nearly every broadcast on the station — morning shows, weekend shows and weekday newscasts at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.
He covered several major stories at WFAA, including serving as an anchor for national political conventions, reporting on multiple hurricanes and being an integral part of the station’s coverage of the Delta 191 crash at DFW International Airport in August 1985.
“He was the face of WFAA for a long, long time,” said Bob May, who worked in production at WFAA during Criswell’s time at the station.
Criswell moved to KDFW Channel 4 in 1990 and worked at the station through 1997. At WFAA, he originated Wednesday’s Child in 1980 and Crimestoppers segments.
Before retiring in 1999, Criswell worked in the newsrooms of KTVT-TV in Fort Worth, KDFW-TV and KTXD-TV, both in Dallas.
Criswell and May continued working together after Criswell left the news business. May said Criswell has done narration and voice work for May’s production company since 1998.
“We were more than business associates,” May said. “We were friends.”
Former colleague and co-anchor Tracy Rowlett called Criswell a class act in a tribute post on WFAA.com.
“I think he covered just about every newscast that we had at Channel 8 at that time — from morning to evening,” Rowlett said Thursday. “But he finally made his mark by being the first person to anchor the Wednesday’s Child segment.
Elizabeth and John Criswell were founders of the Deaf Action Center, which was established in support of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. (Courtesy: Criswell family)
“I think what he did to help children find homes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and elsewhere is probably his legacy.”
Former colleague and longtime friend Phyllis Watson said news of Criswell’s passing “broke my heart. He was one of the most dearest, sincere people I met in my life.”
Criswell and Watson were voted best anchors in Dallas-Fort Worth in a Dallas Morning News readers’ survey in 1986. They also placed first in the 1985 and 1983 surveys.
Former WFAA sportscaster Dale Hansen said: “It’d be a hell of a lot better world if we had more John Criswells in it.”
Jerry Cadigan, WFAA’s longtime production operations manager, worked with Criswell for decades, as far back as when Criswell worked at WFAA’s radio station.
At Channel 8, they worked on Wednesday’s Child and Crimestoppers.
“He was totally devoted to making sure we served our audience and viewers well,” Cadigan said. “He saw a need for adoption stories and that’s how we got involved with Wednesday’s Child.”
Before coming to Dallas, Criswell was a reporter and anchor at WMAL in Washington, D.C.
Criswell and his wife Elizabeth were founders of the Dallas-based Deaf Action Center, which was established in support of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.
“In his 17 years at our station, John served as an important voice for both WFAA and the Dallas-Fort Worth metro as a whole,” WFAA Vice President and station manager Carolyn Mungo said in a statement.
“His legacy still lives on at the station today through the features he helped launch … . He was a valuable part of the WFAA story, and he will be missed.”
Criswell is survived by four daughters: Karen Drennan, Kendra Branden, Katy Criswell and Julie Govan. He is also survived by seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.