Don Harrison, a former Tampa Bay area news anchor who joined the CNN Headline News Network for its 1982 debut, died Saturday of renal cancer in the Atlanta area. He was 61.
Harrison joined CNN in 1981 after anchoring for three years at WTSP-Ch. 10. He was a full-time anchor when Headline News joined cable networks the next year as CNN2.
"Don was one of the most talented people in the television news industry. He also was an extraordinary human being _ inspiring personal and professional excellence in those who knew him," said Bob Furnad, president of CNN Headline News.
Harrison lost a leg to bone cancer when he was 13 and a kidney to cancer in 1993.
Most of Harrison's tenure at Headline News was spent as a morning anchor. He typically went in at 6:30 a.m. and starting reading on the air at 7.
He often read the same story, only slightly reworded, a dozen times a day. He described his job in a 1992 interview:
"The challenge here to me as a performer is trying to keep the pace and the excitement and the intensity up, remembering that our average viewer probably isn't with us more than 30-45 minutes. And then we start all over."
Harrison won the 1987 Cable Ace Award for best news anchor.
In Tampa, he was solo anchor of WTSP's "Action News" from 1978 to 1981. Before that, he worked for four years at KMSP-TV in Minneapolis-St. Paul. He also spent two years at WBAL-TV in Baltimore, where he was awarded a local Emmy for best newscast, and 11 years at KCTV-TV in Kansas City, Mo.
While at KCTV, Harrison was honored with an award from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for a documentary called "This Old House."
A native of Ottawa, Kan., Harrison began his television career at WIBW-TV in Topeka, Kan., after several years in radio.
He is survived by his wife, Carolyn, two sons and a daughter.
_ Information from Times files was used in this report.