FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Texans have been welcoming Texas Country Reporter Bob Phillips into their homes–every week–for generations.
He’s been in every city and town–and driven more than three-million miles–on every highway and byway in the state.
And this year, he’s reached an incredible milestone: 50 years of warming our hearts with the stories of everyday Texans.
Now we want to tell *his* story, in this week’s “The Ones for Texas.”
By just about anyone’s estimation, Bob Phillips is a lucky man.
“The truth is,” says Phillips, “I was having such a good time doing this that the years just slipped by.”
Fifty of them, to be exact. So many, that sometimes it’s hard for even Phillips to wrap his head around it.
“People started saying that this is the longest running independently-produced television show in American TV history. And I thought, wow, that’s unbelievable. And it’s one of those kind of ‘pinch me’ things. I don’t know how this happened or where it came from,” says Phillips.
It “happened” in the very early years of Phillips’ TV career in Dallas-Fort Worth when he and several colleagues pestered management into letting them put together a series of “Charles Kuralt-style” good news stories, in a one-time-only 30-minute special.
“Karen, when we started that first show on October 7th, 1972, at the CBS affiliate in Dallas, Texas, I didn’t know there was going to be a second show,” says Phillips. “I thought we were just doing this one show. We all did. The station didn’t exactly commit to this being a series. They just said, ‘You know, hey. You guys have had this idea, go out and try it. Let’s see if it’s worth anything.’”
It turns out it was worth something.
The show was such a huge hit with viewers, they were asked to do it again. And again. Every week for 15 years, until Phillips moved to a competing station across the street.
That’s when he decided to syndicate his show, so it could be seen beyond North Texas.
Now, it’s seen in every television market in the state–and in many places across the country
And, after all these years, they’ve never run out of stories to tell.
“That’s what we do,” says Phillips. “We’ve always focused on people. As long as they keep making more people, I don’t run out of story ideas.”
It’s one of the reasons that tens of thousands of people have converged on Waxahachie every year for the last 25 years. They want to celebrate those ordinary Texans — as part of the Texas Country Reporter Festival.
And this year was their biggest yet.
We normally get 50,000 or more people. It’s the largest one-day festival in the state of Texas. And the common denominator is this little half-hour weekly show about Texans and Texas,” says Phillips.
His latest venture?
Last month’s release of a highly acclaimed memoir.
But the question remains: with everything he’s achieved in his career, does he ever think about life after TV?
“You know, one of the problems–when you’re me– is that I do for a living what other people do on vacation and retirement. So, if I were to retire, I’m not sure what I would do,” says Phillips. “My wife says, ‘You’ll know when you know. When the time is here, you’ll know it.’ Well, so far I don’t know it, so…right now I’m in planning for Season 51.”
And we’ll be tuning in.