News anchor John Wilson's retirement plans: family time, book

WTVT's John Wilson is planning more time with his family and a book.
WTVT news anchor John Wilson, left, and his son, Mark Wilson, pose for a photo in the Fox 13 news studio in Tampa in 2011. John says retiring in November will provide more time with family. Photo by Brian Blanco
WTVT news anchor John Wilson, left, and his son, Mark Wilson, pose for a photo in the Fox 13 news studio in Tampa in 2011. John says retiring in November will provide more time with family.Photo by Brian Blanco
Published May 25 2014
Updated May 25 2014

TAMPA — John Wilson might have retired a few years ago if an unusual opportunity hadn't presented itself.

Mark Wilson, his son, had been made an anchor at WTVT-Ch. 13, the station where John Wilson has been lead anchor for more than 20 years. The chance to work with him, he said, "rejuvenated me.''

"It refired me," said Wilson, 73.

But after 50 years in broadcasting— 57 years, he said, if you count the time he spent working at a Virginia radio station while in school — Wilson is stepping down from his job .

He announced on-air Friday that he would retire in November.

"It's time to quit," he said in an interview Saturday. "It's time to enjoy life."

Once he officially walks away, Wilson plans to work on a book about television news and how it has moved away from local stations with local ownership.

"I want to go back to the beginning, when local news was owned by local people," he said. That's when news is most responsive to community needs, he said.

He'll spend more time with his family, too.

"We want to spend more time going to Patrick's movie sets and be a part of that," he said of his son Patrick Wilson, a well-regarded actor whose work has received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.

"It will be nice to have dinner with friends in the evening," said his wife, Mary K. Wilson, who said her husband intends to stay involved in the community.

"I think John is such a professional and he really believes in what he does," she said. "He wants to make a difference and I think he has."

Wilson and his wife have three sons: Patrick, Mark and Paul, who owns an advertising company. They have six grandchildren and have made their home in St. Petersburg for 30 years.

Wilson worked at WTSP-Ch. 10 News for 12 years before moving to WTVT in 1993. His broadcast career began in 1964 in the U.S. Army anchoring news in Panama. There he reported on Congress passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the beginning of the Vietnam War.

Wilson said highlights of his career include reporting on Ted Bundy's execution and the 50th anniversary of D-Day. His work has taken him around the world, including to Romania, where he reported on the millions of orphans in the country and followed the story of a boy as he was adopted.

Wilson has won three Emmy Awards and awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Associated Press. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Broadcasters Club of Florida in 2013.

"He knows the nuances of stories like nobody," said WTVT anchor Kelly Ring, who has worked with Wilson for 21 years. "He just adds so much depth to our product."

She said she is excited for Wilson, though she can't imagine anchoring without him after working together for so many years.

Wilson and his wife said they will continue their community work. Wilson has emceed many of the Boys and Girls Club's annual fundraising dinners. This year, the event raised about $300,000, he said.

Wilson and his wife also volunteer with the annual concerts the Florida Orchestra puts on for at-risk children each year, started by George Steinbrenner almost 30 years ago.

"Those bring life into focus for me," Wilson said.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Keeley Sheehan can be reached at [email protected]