MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This week we are saying goodbye to one of the best storytellers ever to work in the Twin Cities. Bill Hudson’s been a part of WCCO for more than 31 years.
Known for his friendship and humanity, he traveled the world for this job, but it’s stories about the people here at home that he truly cherishes.
“It was a small town and I lived on the bad side of town. I lived in Upper Town,” said Hudson.
While growing up, Hudson’s hometown of Elk River only had a couple thousand people, but no shortage of characters. That led to an early appreciation for all walks of life.
“Rich or poor. Black or white. It doesn’t matter. Small towns are unique in that way in that you are all in it together,” he said.
Hockey helped strengthen that mentality. As a high school goalie, he once made 65 saves in a game.
“God we had fun. I’m still best friends with my hockey buddies,”said Hudson.
From sports to story-telling: his dad printed a newspaper, so journalism was in his blood from the start.
He graduated from St. Cloud State, interned at WCCO, and his reporting career began in 1980 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. After a couple years it was off to Milwaukee.
“I spent five years there. A little over five years there. Then I got the call to come back to ‘CCO and it was the happiest day of my life,” said Hudson.
The station he watched growing up, watched him grow into a stand-out storyteller.
“My first day on the air reporting was: ‘here’s an airline ticket. You are flying to Chicago to do a live shot.’ It was a Saturday,” said Hudson.
Through the years WCCO sent Hudson around the world. From the top of Mount Rushmore to the bottom of Lake Superior. He covered stories in places like Bosnia, Saudi Arabia and Panama. Blizzards in the Midwest and hurricanes in the south. He was there when law enforcement surrounded the Branch Davidian compound in Waco.
“You don’t know what the world event is going to unfold and all of a sudden there’s this raid on this compound in Waco, Texas,” he said.
FULL INTERVIEW: Bill Hudson Reminisces On 31 Years In News At WCCO
“Five days we spent there on a dirt road in the middle of Texas,” said photojournalist Dave Chaney. Chaney had a front row seat to Hudson’s career. “Class act. Partner. You weren’t the photographer that worked for Bill, you worked alongside Bill. It can be the most horrific tragedy but on the way there and the way back you are human because you are talking to a guy who is human. It didn’t matter the story, everyone wanted to work with Bill.”
That’s because Bill has great compassion for those he meets. During the Gulf War he was sent to the home of a family who had just lost a son overseas.
“We find the house. Dale Panchot, Jr. I’ll never forget the guy’s name. He was 25-years-old. Serving in the army,” said Bill. “I knock on the door, dad answers, I express my condolences and he says come on in. That moment when they have enough faith or confidence in you to want to talk in the midst of their deepest grief; stuck with me all these years,” said Hudson.
It was those stories that made Hudson stronger and helped grow his love for his home state. Tales of the outdoors were his real passion. From snowshoeing and kayaking to canoe-making.
“Joe Seliga. What a character he was. Ninety-one-years-old. He was building these beautiful cedar strip canoes. A Seliga canoe was the canoe. Kind of like having a Cadillac or Lexus on the water,” said Hudson.
“He’s the best writer because he has that compassion,” said photojournalist Joe Berglove, a fellow Elk River native.
With Berglove’s help Hudson never stopped looking for those characters.
“That was just the greatest. And working with him is just like working with your brother,” said Berglove.
Now, the man affectionately known as the dad of the WCCO newsroom is making time for his family.
“It’s the saddest day and the happiest day. I’m sad because my friend is leaving. But I’m happy he’s leaving for the right reasons: to be with his family,” said Chaney.
Hudson will leave the job behind, but not the love he has for the people. He gave so much to his work and learned a thing or two about life along the way.
“Be human. Be humble and be caring. Genuinely caring. Like you would a neighbor. Treat people the way you would want to be treated,” he said.