A night in Topeka with Bill Kurits

A night in Topkea with Bill Kurits
My poorly shot picture of Bill Kurtis in White Concert Hall at Washburn University

I’ve been a fan of journalist Bill Kurtis for some years now. Not only has he hosted many investigative crime shows but as a journalist he covered some of the most infamous crime trials of all time, like those of Charles Manson and Richard Speck. A few months ago I moved to Topeka, Kansas. What I didn’t know before I moved here is that Topeka is where he got his start.

Last night I attended the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the 1966 Tornado that leveled Washburn University and most of Topeka. It was held by the Topeka Capital-Journal and called Twist of Fate. Bill Kurtis was a law student at Washburn who filled in as an anchorman at local news station WIBW the day that the tornado touched down. He delivered a line on that broadcast that has come to define his career, “For God’s sake, take cover.”

I was able to attend last night’s event thanks to one of my closest friends, whose father had worked with Mr. Kurtis in broadcasting. Mr. Kurtis recounted his experience from June 8, 1966 in one of the most eloquent speeches I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. After his speech Mr. Kurtis then answered some questions from Capital-Journal reporter Tim Carpenter, who is an excellent reporter in his own right. After that the audience was allowed to ask Mr. Kurtis a few questions. I got in line but unfortunately they ended the Q&A before I could ask my question. I was going to ask him that since he had covered so many crime stories in his extensive and celebrated career, were there any that were so horrific that made him rethink his choice in careers? Not in so many words, but that was the gist.

While I was just a little disappointed that I didn’t get to ask Mr. Kurtis my question, it was an extreme honor just being able to attend the event that had so much of an impact on the history of my new adopted hometown.

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