BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Longtime Baton Rouge news anchor John Mahaffey has died. He was 77 years old.
Mahaffey started his career in Baton Rouge television at WAFB-TV. Former WBRZ News Director John Spain hired Mahaffey away from WAFB.
"He was a remarkable guy in that he had no ego and that's really rare in the news business," Spain said. "But he was a solid journalist, he loved the news business, and he loved to beat the competition. But besides that, he was a really fine human being."
Louisiana State Senate Communications Director Brenda Hodge co-anchored WAFB's 6 p.m. with Mahaffey for several years beginning in 1976.
"He was a steady hand and a steady voice," Hodge said Friday.
Hodge added Mahaffey, "had a huge heart and would do anything for you."
"At one point in time, there was a meteorologist who made a low salary and his car broke. He was worried about how he'd get his car fixed. Mahaffey paid to get his car fixed and, when it broke again, he bought him a new car," Hodge recalled.
Longtime friend and former co-anchor Margaret Lawhon smiled as she spoke of Mahaffey's nickname "The Duke" and how he got the name.
"The whole John Wayne moniker - that John Wayne was The Duke," she said. "And, if you think about it, those of us who knew him so well knew that Mahaffey did sort of have this presence and manly swagger about him that was not unlike a John Wayne persona." Lawhon says Mahaffey had a love for first family first but his second love was for television news. "And so much of your legacy at Channel 9 was based on what Mahaffey brought and what Mahaffey built. And, it's a proud legacy. So, I think both of the major TV stations have benefited from John Mahaffey having been there."
Mahaffey, a graduate of the University of Texas, retired in 1999 and continued living in Baton Rouge. He died late Thursday following surgery for a blood clot.
"John Mahaffey was the consummate news anchor," added Lawhon. "He not only had the camera-ready looks including a million-dollar smile, but he was a born story-teller. Mahaffey loved to write and he could deliver everything from hard news to his signature humor in a 'Final Note' at the end of each newscast with equal aplomb. He was a giant figure in television news and he will be sorely missed, even after being retired for nearly 17 years."