Christian, Spencer 1947–
Spencer Christian 1947–
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Among the meteorologists who provide weathercasts on the broadcast networks’ popular morning news programs, Spencer Christian has set the tone as an amiable provider of the nation’s rain or shine outlook to millions of viewers. Christian, who often fills in as co-host with Joan Lunden on Good Morning America, has been described by TV Guide’s Marvin Kitman as “an intelligent, entertaining, likable fellow, not a somber bone in his body.”
Spencer Christian was born in July of 1947 to Spencer Christian Sr. and Lucy Greene Christian in Newport News, VA. He spent the late 1960s as an English major at Virginia’s Hampton College, and also served in the U.S. Army Reserves. After graduating with a minor in journalism, Christian taught school at the Stony Brook School, a private secondary institution on Long Island. However, in 1971, he moved back to Virginia to take a job at WWBT-TV in Richmond. He worked as a news reporter for one year. When the station’s weathercaster quit, Christian’s boss approached him and asked if he knew anything about meteorology. “I told him that the upper-level winds moved from east to west and steer the frontal systems. He said, That’s enough for now. We need you to fill on for a couple of weeks,” Christian recalled to Ebony writer Douglas C. Lyons. Christian wound up remaining the station’s weathercaster for three years before taking a similar job in Baltimore.
At Baltimore’s WBAL-TV, Christian honed his skills as a meteorologist. In addition to preparing and delivering weather forecasts, he also hosted a weekly half-hour talk show called Spencer’s World. His special five-part news report concerning the decline of verbal skills in America entitled “Does Anyone Here Speak English?,” which he produced and narrated, won an Emmy. His on-air successes soon brought him to the biggest market in the country-New York City. Along with his wife, Diane Chambers Christian and their two children, Spencer moved to the Big Apple in 1977 when he was offered a job at WABC-TV. After four years as a weathercaster, he switched to the sports department in 1981. He occasionally filled in as weathercaster on ABC’s highly-rated morning news program, Good Morning America.
In the summer of 1986 a greater opportunity arose for Christian when Good Morning America’s regular meteorologist left the show; Christian was offered the job and
Born July 23,1947, in Newport News, City, VA; son of Spencer and Lucy Greene Christian; married Diane Chambers, June 20,1970; children; Jason, Jessica, Education: Hampton University, B.A., 1970.
Career Stony Brook Preparatory School, Stony Brook, Long Island, NY, teacher, 1970; WWBT-TV, Richmond, VA, news reporter, 1971-72, weathercaster, 1972-75; WBAL-TV, Baltimore, MD, weathercaster, 1975-77; WABC-TV, New YorkCity, weathercaster, 1977-81, sports reporter, 1981-86; Good Morning America (ABC News moming program), New York City, weather caster, co-host, and interviewer, August, 1986-; hostof Spencer Christian ’s WineCellaron HGTV. Also active in a number of charitable causes. Military service: Served in the U.S. Army Reserves.
Awards: Whitney M. Young Service Award, Greater New York Councils of the Boy Scouts of America, 1991,for presenting a positive role model to youth; inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame, 1993; Virginian of the Year, Virginian Press Association, 1993.
Addresses: Home -Bergen County, NJ. Office -Good Morning America, Capital Cities/ABC, Inc., 1965 Broadway, New York, NY 10023.
he accepted. He debuted on Good Morning America in August of 1986 and has been a fixture on the show ever since. Christian and his early-morning competitors, the Today Show’s AI Roker on NBC and Mark McEwen of CBS This Morning, were the subjects of an Ebony magazine feature, in which Lyons described them as “Black professionals who hold one of the best-paying--although most maligned and misunderstood-jobs in television.” The article estimated that such network personalities command an annual salary anywhere from $200,000 to $800,000. Kitman, writing in TV Guide, called Christian’s forecast “the cleanest, brightest, eas-iest-to-swallow prediction” among the three.
Working as a meteorologist for a major news program does have its disadvantages. Aside from being a public figure, and the usual lack of privacy that entails, Christian and other meteorologists suffer from the wide-spread perception that their forecasts are inaccurate--despite the fact that the average forecast is correct almost ninety percent of the time. They are also criticized for taking too lighthearted an approach to the weather, although Christian and his colleagues stressed the importance of “projecting a genuinely pleasant personality.” Christian is so amiable, in fact, that he agreed to allow Good Morning America to follow his hair-transplant surgery in the summer of 1989. That same year, he was tapped to co-host a late-night series called Day’s End on ABC. Like other attempts at overnight news, the series never took off and ran for only three months. Christian set aside his good-natured personality when he portrayed a villainous record company executive on the ABC soap opera All My Children in 1990. His other television ventures include hosting a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) series on America’s railroads called Tracks Ahead.
Christian’s extensive wine collection and his growing reputation as a collector of rare vintages led to the debut of a new show Spencer Christian’s Wine Cellar on HGTV (Home and Garden Television, a cable network) in 1995. A wine connoisseur since the late 1970s, Christian built an extensive 1,500-bottle collection, including two bottles dating back to the eighteenth century. “People whose passions can be aroused by a great bottle of wine, a great song or a great piece of art or literature are people who tend to have an appreciation for the finer things in life, “he told Ebony magazine. However, several ill-fated investment decisions led to problems with the Internal Revenue Service and some of his assets were frozen. “In order to keep them off my back I had to take a certain portion of my wine collection, which included most of my really rare bottles, to other private collectors and turn the money over to the IRS,” he told Ebony in 1995. He called the fiasco “devastating and heartbreaking.”
Christian’s sunny outlook, however, is indefatigable. He is involved in numerous charities, including the March of Dimes, Special Olympics, Project Literacy U.S.A., United Negro College Fund, and the Big Brothers, and is the author of two books on geography and weather as well as Electing Our Government: Everything You Need to Know to Make Your Vote Really Count. In 1991 his positive role model earned him the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award from the Greater New York Councils of the Boy Scouts of America.
Electing Our Government: Everything You Need to Know to Make Your Vote Really Count, St. Martin’s Griffin, 1996.
Ebony, October 1988, pp. 42-46; January 1995, p. 52.
Jet, May 14, 1990, p. 63.
New York Times, August 5, 1986.
TV Guide, July 6, 1991.
Additional information for this profile was provided by ABC News publicity materials.
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