Chicago television veterans, city politicians and community leaders took to social media Wednesday to remember former NBC 5 anchor Warner Saunders, who passed away at age 83.
"We miss him already," Rev. Jesse Jackson posted to Twitter. "His presence was always there. A community treasure. Keen intellect. Best coverage of the 1983 Harold Washington campaign & Nelson Mandela’s South African release from jail. Wherever he landed his presence was always felt."
"Very sad news," Ald. Brendan Reilly tweeted. "Warner Saunders had a very long & distinguished career as a journalist and educator in Chicago. He will be missed."
"Such terribly sad news," NBC 5 sports reporter Peggy Kusinski wrote. "I owe so much to Warner - I was his intern back when he did sports and a public affairs TV show ... and he told the bosses to hire me."
Saunders, a well-known Chicago journalist and former teacher, was the face and spirit of NBC 5 through his retirement in 2009.
"I am just in awe that you have allowed me to come into your homes for all of these years," Saunders said during his last on-air sign-off. "I am not going to cry, but I am close to tears tonight."
Saunders never set out to be a television personality. He started as an activist who came to the news business out of his passion for the community.
He was a former Chicago Public Schools teacher and executive director of the Boys Clubs.
Saunders came to NBC 5 from WBBM-TV where he was the director of community affairs and host of the ground-breaking talk show "Common Ground."
He went on to become the president of the Chicago Association of Black Journalists.
Saunders is best known for a series of reports from South Africa in 1990 that coincided with the release of Nelson Mandela from prison, "South Africa: What Happens to a Dream Deferred."
Over his career, Saunders earned more than 20 Emmys in news and sports, anchoring the sports desk before moving back over to news.
He was a dear friend and mentor to many at NBC 5 and the other stations in Chicago.