WCPO-TV’s former general manager and vice president died Sunday after he worked in Cincinnati TV for almost three decades of his 44-year career. He was 76 years old.
Jimmy Bryan Chase, better known as J.B. Chase, died at about 2 p.m. Sunday from complications with bladder cancer.
“He was a great leader and a great boss. He was that rare boss who would encourage people to do things that maybe they didn’t know they could do, but he knew you could do them," said Stuart Zanger, former WCPO news director, who worked under Chase for about 11 years.
Chase served as the general manager of WCPO-TV for about nine years — eight of which he served as vice president. He retired in 1999 after he had been in poor health following a surgery. Chase’s retirement ended his 44-year broadcast TV career.
"[Chase] excelled as a television leader because he was a deeply committed community servant," said Rich Boehne, president and CEO of The E.W. Scripps Company, owner of WCPO. "He always talked about what an honor it was to lead one of Cincinnati's most important news and media organizations. He felt personally responsible for every one of Channel 9's viewers and advertisers. [Chase] embodied local television at its very best."
Chase joined WCPO in 1972 as local sales manager, and was promoted to national sales manager in 1973. In 1985, Chase was named general sales manager and a year later took on added responsibilities as assistant general manager.
Chase began his career in 1955 at KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City, where he focused on TV advertising sales. He was named general sales manager at KOCO in 1964 and in 1971 was promoted to general manager.
Chase first fell in love with TV when he was 18 years old and cut grass for a TV station in Oklahoma City, said Chase's son, Jim Chase. He soon worked his way inside the station and sharpened his teeth as a disc jockey.
"He really fell in love with the media," said Jim, who resides in Minneapolis.
Chase's passion for TV was evident through his work, Zanger said. He said Chase was not only an influential leader, but also an outstanding broadcaster who helped found the now Emmy Award-winning I-Team.
"He had an impact on this community as a broadcaster and I really think that he changed television in Cincinnati during the years that he was boss," Zanger said. "With the I-Team, he supported and led us through the story the way it needed to be done, and he always asked, 'Is it accurate?' and 'is it fair?’ He would deal with whatever the fallout would be and we never knew the calls he got after stories went on air. The TV he did in the 90s changed what local broadcasting was like at that point."
Chase's ideas and spirit live on in the Channel 9 newsroom, said Steve Thaxton, vice president and general manager at WCPO.
“Hearing the stories of past general managers, the respect and affection the WCPO staff had for J.B. Chase is evident. The years [Chase] ran the station were very successful and a number of his decisions and creative ideas are still part of the WCPO of today," Thaxton said. "As a team, we mourn his passing and consider this station fortunate for J.B Chase’s years of leadership.”
Chase was known for creating a family-like environment in the workplace and in the community, Zanger said.
"When he was boss, we liked each other. He helped us be a family, which doesn't often happen in the newsroom," he said.
Chase's families will miss him, too, Jim said.
"He really loved his families and he had many of them -- the media was one of them," Jim said. "He took so much pride in other people being successful."
Since Chase's 1999 retirement, he enjoyed wood working and spending time with his wife of 57 years, Helen. Chase is survived by his son, Jim Chase; his daughter, Barbara Bowers and wife, Helen Chase.
A funeral service is set for 3 p.m. Friday at Withamsville Church of Christ located at 846 Ohio Pike in Cincinnati. A reception will be prior to the funeral at 2:30 p.m. Donations can be made in Chase's name at Best Friends Animal Society at www.bestfriends.org.
Story by WCPO-TV.