'Buckskin' Bill passes away at age 88 - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

'Buckskin' Bill passes away at age 88

Buckskin Bill Black (Source: WAFB) Buckskin Bill Black (Source: WAFB)

Baton Rouge legend, William "Bill" Black, known as Buckskin Bill, passed away Wednesday, Jan. 10, according to family members. Buckskin was born in 1929.

Say the name "Buckskin" to longtime residents of Baton Rouge and immediately, their eyes light up, smiles appear on their faces, and the trips down memory lane begin.

What was it about this young entertainer and salesman that captured the hearts of children and their parents in the Capital City?

RELATED: Who is "Buckskin" Bill?

In 1955 William P. Black was working at a television station in Tulsa, Oklahoma when he was contacted by a former boss, who had signed WAFB Channel 28 on the air. He offered the tall, youthful radio personality a job as an entertainer and salesman. Black packed his bags and made his way to Baton Rouge.

Bill Black began his television career as a cameraman and floorman. During that time, he wanted to create a television character children could relate to. Black had worked his way through college as a rodeo clown and was a comic and emcee in Army shows during his stint in the Korean War. He knew how to command an audience.

His son calls him a "natural entertainer."

Buckskin Bill passed away on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 in the late afternoon.

His wife, Elma, passed away on April 5, 2017.

Buckskin's son says back in November 2017, Buckskin broke his hip after a fall and had surgery for a partial hip replacement. He had been dealing with complications ever since. Buckskin developed an infection and reportedly took a turn for the worse after New Year's.

Buckskin leaves behind three children: a son, Bucky, who lives in North Carolina and two daughters, Ann and Ginger, who live in Louisiana.

The family says they appreciate the love the community has shown towards Buckskin.

Click here to offer your condolences to the family on Facebook.

Visitation will be held at 10 a.m. on Friday, January 19, 2018, at Broadmoor United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge. The memorial service will start at noon, followed by a reception. The church is located at 10230 Mollylea Drive. The burial will be held privately for Buckskin's immediate family.


Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome:

I am deeply saddened by the loss of the beloved Buckskin Bill, Mr. William 'Bill' Black. So many in our community have fond memories of Buckskin Bill and his cherished television program. Not only did he delight generations of Baton Rouge children by giving them their first opportunity to appear on television, he did so while providing some of the first multimedia educational materials in the country and teaching the importance of charity and community.

He was a man ahead of his time and lived his life demonstrating that it is the community’s central mission to take care of each other. On behalf of our community, my thoughts and love go out to his children and family. I think we should all continue to practice his famed advice, 'you’re never completely dressed until you put on a smile.'

LSU gymnastics coach D-D Breaux:

He was a giant of a man to all of us that grew up watching him. He gave LSU gymnastics a huge bump in our community when he asked me to join him every morning to do a minute of stretching and exercise on his show! He was keenly aware of what is good in our community and always strived to make it better.

The BREC Baton Rouge Zoo released a statement about Buckskin's passing. Buckskin Bill's Penny March was instrumental in helping the zoo buy its first two elephants in the 1960s. The statement from zoo director, Phil Frost, reads:

There’s no question, we have always enjoyed visiting with Bill Black (“Buckskin” Bill). We invited him out to the zoo on many occasions for several special events, as well as to simply visit. He always had great stories to share about the Penny March, which was instrumental in helping the zoo purchase its first two elephants in the late 1960’s. In fact, the zoo’s current mascot is call ‘Penny’ in honor of that legacy.

As I have gone out into the community and spoken to clubs and organizations, it has been rare to not have someone approach me and tell me about their fond memories and experience with the Penny March and Buckskin Bill. I have never grown tired of hearing the community express how they, as a child, gave pennies. We are forever indebted and truly grateful to Bill Black for his support and his willingness to help the Baton Rouge Zoo become a reality. Bill Black will be immensely missed, however his memory will live on as a trailblazer who brought together the community for a common cause.

Doug Welborn, Clerk of Court for East Baton Rouge Parish

The news of Buckskin Bill Black’s passing was sad to hear and my prayers are with his family.  Before long, memories of good times began to enter our minds as my family and I began to reflect back on growing up with Buckskin Bill.

Of course, the Monday Morning March was a not-to-be-missed ritual in our home among countless others.  We cheered along and helped to spread his message that “Baton Rouge Needs a Zoo.”  And we always looked forward to his visits with Senor Puppet.

After his on-air retirement, Bill continued to be a driving force and a leader by example to our community through his service on the School Board and in so many other areas.  He could always be counted on for a kind and wise word and his impact on our lives can never be overstated.

Thanks to Buckskin Bill for a lifetime of memories and for being an example for us all.

Jill C. Dyason, EBRP School Board Member

Bill was a dear friend and colleague. We served, with great integrity, on our EBRP School Board for many years together through the very challenging years of desegregation, gaining unitary status, and finally achieving local control of our school system.

When I joined the CAPE reform board, as the youngest member of our board, he welcomed me wholeheartedly. We learned from and listened to each other always with a mutual respect and with meaningful care. Bill was one of only three dear people in my life who have 'gotten away with' calling me 'Jilly' – my Daddy, my best friend from Broadmoor Elementary School and Bill. I will treasure the valuable contributions he made to our community and our friendship always. 

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