Willard (Bill) Franklin Shadel

1908 - 2005

Willard (Bill) Shadel, 20th Century noted radio and television broadcast personality, was also a pioneer broadcaster and ensemble conductor in Seventh-day Adventist colleges and universities.

Bill was born in Milton, Wisconsin, on July 31, 1908, one of five children and the younger of two sons of Franklin Luther and Ida Louise Pachel Shadel. He was musically talented and in his early years provided music for silent movies.

He attended Emmanuel Missionary College, now Andrews University, and was baptized in the 1927-1928 school year. He assumed direction of the college band and orchestra in 1929, while still a student and then worked as an assistant program manager for the college's radio station, responsible  for music presentations that included his performing as a soloist on marimba, saxophone, clarinet, and trombone and him directing bands and choirs for the station. His work as a soloist and with these groups, which also gave programs for the school, was an immediate hit with their members and the campus at large. While at EMC, he married Marion I. Kocher and they would have two sons, Willard F., Jr. and Gerald I.

He led the groups for two years following his graduation in 1932, while teaching political science courses, and then left to lead the band, orchestra, and choirs at Washington Missionary College, now Washington Adventist University, in Washington, D.C. He later completed a master's degree in history at the University of Michigan.

The music groups at WMC flourished under his leadership, as they had at EMC. When he abruptly resigned in January 1937 to pursue his interests in radio, the students were upset. According to the school paper the situation was alleviated by "the condescension of Professor Shadel" to continue conducting the choral groups to the end of the school year.

Shadel had started serving as a correspondent for the National Rifle Association (NRA) in 1936 and within a decade of the decision to leave WMC had become an editor for the NRA's magazine, The American Rifleman, in 1938, while establishing, a national reputation in radio.  In 1943 he traveled to Europe, where he was recruited by Edward R. Murrow to help CBS cover World War II. Out of the more than 500 U.S. reporters in Europe, he was among a select group of 28 who were chosen to give firsthand reports on the D-Day landings at Normandy on June 6, 1944.

He and Murrow were the first two reporters to witness the horrors of the Buchenwald concentration camp. His graphic reporting of what he saw would earn him a "Witness to the Truth" award in 1990 from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and tapes of his wartime broadcasts would be used as teaching tools at several schools of journalism.

Following the end of the war in 1945, he began a career in television, working with Walter Cronkite, who at that time was anchor for a local station WTOP-TV in Washington, D.C. During this time, he and Marion divorced in 1948 and he married Julia Strouse in 1950. They would have two sons, David and Douglas.

He started the Face the Nation program in 1954, serving as its first host; anchored the ABC Evening News, beginning in 1948; moderated the third in a series of debates between Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960, the first televised presidential debates; and covered John Glenn's first space flight in 1962.

While covering the floor at the Democratic Convention in San Francisco in1960, he was caught in a mob of demonstrators and knocked to the floor, where he broke his fall by placing his hand behind them. His hand fell on a broken pop bottle and severed nerves, limiting his ability to type and hold a script.

By the time of his retirement from television in 1963, Shadel had worked with 20th century television legends Murrow, Cronkite, Eric Sevareid, and Howard K Smith. He then taught journalism at the University of Washington for twelve years before fully retiring in 1975. Andrews University honored him in 1983 for his broadcasting career.

Shadel was living in Renton, Washington, at the time of his death on January 29, 2005, at age 96. He is buried in Milton Junction Cemetery in Wisconsin.


Sources: The Emmanuel Missionary College Student Movement: 18 April, 1, and 24 October 1929, 1; 24 April, 8 May, 16 October, and 17 December, 1 1930; the EMC 1930, 1931, and 1932 yearbooks, Cardinal; Washington Missionary College Sligonian, 1 November and 20 December 1935; 28 February 1936, 1; Andrews University Focus, Fall 1993; KOMO TV news services (Seattle), 31 January 2005.