In Detroit, there were news anchors, and then there was Bill Bonds. “People automatically thought Bonds when they thought news,” Amyre Makupson, a former anchor at WKBD, told the Detroit Free Press. “Whether you liked him or not, whether you liked his opinions or not, he made news not boring.”
Bonds, who anchored at WXYZ from the mid-1960’s through the 1990’s, died of a heart attack Saturday. The station aired extensive coverage of Bonds’ life and career Saturday night.
Former WXYZ general manager Jeanne Findlater told the Free Press managing Bonds was a “nonstop job…It was as frustrating an experience as I ever had. It was, in equal measure, a rewarding experience.” As the newspaper recalled, Bonds’ private life was as well-known as his work on TV:
For years, Bonds, along with co-anchor Diana Lewis, dominated the Detroit television market. Bonds’ private life was often as discussed as his colorful newscasts, as he battled alcoholism, buried a daughter and went through a divorce. In 1989, he challenged then-Mayor Coleman Young on air to a boxing match, after which he made his first public admission of his battle with alcohol.
Channel 7 fired Bonds in 1995, months after a drunken driving arrest. After the arrest, Bonds stayed several months in an Atlanta treatment facility.
As an anchorman at Channel 7 from the mid-1960s until the mid-1990s, Bonds introduced an element of theater into the nightly newscast. Depending on the inflection of his voice or the arch of his eyebrows, he could telegraph any combination of anger, rage or humor to punctuate a story.
WXYZ’s coverage included statements from the Bonds family, and Michigan’s governor:
The Bonds family released this statement.
“For us Bill was so much more than the face on TV, the talented anchorman. He was a wonderful husband and father who cared deeply about his children and his family. We will miss him greatly.
Bill had a great passion for the news business. More than anything, he loved bringing the news to the people of Detroit. He believed we were a better community, if we were a well-informed community.
We thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
Governor Rick Snyder issued this statement in regards to the passing of Bonds.
“For decades, Detroiters tuned it to the evening news to watch WXYZ-TV anchor Bill Bonds. Always colorful and never dull, Bonds had a passion for Detroit and Michigan – and the big story. People watched not just to hear the news, but to see how Bonds would deliver it. The governor extends condolences to his family and friends and all who can fondly remember a newsman with a personality as big as his heart.”