“It’s strange that a storm that tried to literally blow us apart, brought us together”- Ken Rowland WHAS TV Special Report 1974.
Ken Rowland anchored the news on WHAS TV from 1970 to 1977.
He was born in Kansas and moved to Louisville in 1958 as a radio news director at WKLO. He died Monday, November 27, 2017 at 4:30 p.m., peacefully at his Louisville home.
His son, Steve says he had just enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving surrounded by family and friends and was sharp and alert, despite suffering two strokes in recent years.
He was a shoe-leather reporter. Along the route in Louisville, he interviewed history-making newsmakers, like in 1967 with Muhammad Ali and Martin Luther King JR standing side by side in Louisville, one year before King's assassination.
But it was his marathon tornado coverage on WHAS TV, April 3, 1974 that Kentuckiana would never forget. He told me in 2008, “I was in the newsroom as always and we were preparing for the 6 p.m. news. Then of course, it happened. I believe it was me who dashed to the announcers’ booth of the 2nd floor who put out the bulletin on TV, that a tornado had just touched down near Standiford Field.
Not just any tornado, a monster, part of a super-outbreak of twisters. The tornadoes killed dozens of people in Meade County and ripping apart Louisville neighborhoods,
smacking right into the Louisville Water Company's main supply point, Crescent Hill. Rowland told us, “It was a serious situation. We were all affected together.”
He was calm that day, reassuring. I was at home as a scared elementary school kid. I had seen the tornado getting off the bus. We ran to the house and watched nothing but Ken Rowland all night long. He made you realize we would recover and said this in a 1974 special about the tornado.
He never lost it, never cracked up, despite such bad news hour by hour. He said in 2008, “You are naturally worried when you know that there were people who live near in that area that you are now reporting on and you know its just touched down.”
When we celebrated WHAS TV’s 60th anniversary in March of 2010, we invited Ken to be honored. He and his wife Edie loved every minute of it and Ken enjoyed a martini alongside Milton Metz and other WHAS broadcasting legends.
In watching and re-watching his coverage from 1974, now in modern times, you realize one thing: nothing was flashy. It was just the facts. He recalls, “I knew those areas from being here so long. That's the reason they had me anchoring nearly all of it because I knew block by block what was in those blocks.”
Ken was old-fashioned journalism, who went back out into the tornado disaster area in the days afterward to report from the scene. He said, “Oh yes, it was a scary recovery. How are we going to get those houses rebuilt? Is there enough people? How are we going to handle this afterward?”
Ken's approach mattered to us all then, as it should now, and said in 2008, “I enjoyed my career in broadcasting very much.”
Rowlands visitation is Thursday, November 30 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Herman Meyer Funeral Home on Ellison Avenue in the Highlands. His funeral will follow at 1 p.m. also at Herman Meyer. He is survived by his wife Edie of 53 years, Edie, five children, 12 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren.