Los Angeles, California , United States
|| November 05, 1919
|| February 04, 2002
Apr 22, 2012 04:08pm
|Info||Baxter Ward, a broadcast journalist who won election to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in the 1970s and pushed for the return of commuter rail to Southern California, died Feb. 4 in Kirkland, Wash. He was 82. |
Ward died in his sleep at Evergreen Hospital. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer, but also had other ailments including a heart condition, said his son, Torrey.
Ward was a news director and anchorman for several Los Angeles stations before he began his political career and served on the county board from 1972 to 1980.
Ward's tenure was marked by tangles with some of the county's most powerful officials _ at one point prompting a grand jury probe of the assessor's office _ but he was also a high-profile proponent of rail to solve a growing transportation problem.
At the time, Los Angeles had long abandoned its electric railways and depended solely on increasingly crowded freeways and buses for transportation.
Ward was a vocal advocate of heavy rail transit, but failed to convince voters to increase the sales tax to fund a regional commuter train system.
At his urging, however, the county spent $2 million in 1975 to buy and overhaul a train for commuters. The train, ridiculed as "Baxter's Folly" or "Baxter's Choo-Choo," ran briefly between Los Angeles and San Diego in 1978 and then languished in a rail yard until 1985 when it was sold to the operator of a tour in Mexico's Copper Canyon.
Despite that failure, by 1980 voters approved a tax increase to fund rail transit. There are now three light-rail lines in operation, a fourth is under construction, and the county is served by the regional Metrolink heavy rail system as well as Amtrak.
"Nobody wanted it back then, but ... time would tell," Torrey Ward said.
In the late 1980s Ward unsuccessfully sought to regain his seat on the Board of Supervisors and also failed in a bid to unseat Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley.
Ward was born on Nov. 5, 1919, in Superior, Wis., and grew up in Washington state where he got a job as a radio news announcer at age 16, his son said.
He served in the Army during World War II and then returned to broadcasting, in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore before moving to Los Angeles in the 1950s.
For years Ward was a fixture at anchor desks at KCOP, KHJ and KABC. After leaving office he returned to KABC as a commentator for several years.
He had recently completed a book, "November Sweeps," about politics in Los Angeles and Seattle and was seeking a publisher, his son said.
Ward is also survived by his wife, Karen. Funeral arrangements were pending.