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Jim McKrell is a broadcast personality whose career spanned many decades and included work in radio, television, and film. From his work in commercials for both local and national television to hosting game shows and appearing in TV shows and films, he compiled a wide-ranging set of credits for work both behind and in front of the camera.
Jim “Mac” McKrell was born James MacKrell Jr. on October 12, 1937, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to James “Mac” MacKrell Sr. and Bess Irene Townsend MacKrell. He later changed the spelling of his last name. His father was a prominent local radio personality before getting involved in politics. He graduated from Covington High School in Covington, Louisiana, in 1955 and returned to Arkansas for college, attending but not graduating from what is now the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Following in his father’s footsteps, McKrell’s entertainment career began in radio. He was involved in the early days of Top 40 programming, beginning with a stint at KXOL in Fort Worth, Texas, where some of his fellow staffers included renowned comedians George Carlin and Jack Burns. He would later work at some of the nation’s leading stations in cities across the country, from Boston, Massachusetts, and Los Angeles, California, to New Orleans, Louisiana, and Miami, Florida. While he would move into television in the early 1960s, he returned to radio near the end of his career, serving as the host of a top-rated talk show on Talk 97 in Houston, Texas.
McKrell has been involved in almost every type of electronic media, but he has spent the most time in the world of television. He hosted a number of game shows, including, most prominently, NBC’s hit Celebrity Sweepstakes (1974–1977), as well as The Game Game (1969–1970), and he also appeared on The Hollywood Squares. McKrell also had regular roles on the soap operas General Hospital (1963) and Days of Our Lives (1965). He returned to soap operas in 1982 when he appeared on Capitol. McKrell was a regular presence on prime-time television throughout the 1970s and 1980s. He made appearances and was a guest star on many of the best-known shows of the era, including The Golden Girls (1988), Dynasty (1988), Moonlighting (1985), Hart to Hart (1982), Fame (1982), CHiPs (1982), Dallas (1978), The A-Team (1983), and Fantasy Island (1982). His made-for-television movie credits included Christmas Miracle in Caufield U.S.A (1977) and Revenge of the Stepford Wives (1980), and he also appeared in the ABC Afterschool Specials Run Don’t Walk (1981) and A Reason to Live (1985). McKrell’s credits on the big screen feature Annie Hall (1977), Semi-Tough (1977), The Howling (1981), and Gremlins (1984), as well as Teen Wolf (1985) and Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death (1989).
In the early 1990s, Jim McKrell served as the news anchor for Houston’s KIAH-TV, and he also hosted station-produced specials. McKrell was also involved in television advertising, at various times serving as a writer, producer, and performer. He was the corporate voice for a number of major companies including Disney and Chevrolet, and he was featured in ads for Whirlpool, Serta, Mattel, Goodyear, Exxon, and Radio Shack. He also worked in corporate and industrial films for some of the nation’s largest corporations, including Chevrolet, Toyota, Shell, Coca-Cola, and Disney. For almost fifteen years beginning in the mid-1970s, McKrell served as the corporate host of the National Easter Seals telethon.
Although he retired, he sometimes takes the occasional voice-over projects. He lives in Conroe, Texas, with his wife, Cathy; they married in 1958.
For additional information:
“Interview with Jim McKrell.” Slow Boat to the Land of Parting Gifts. https://sb2tlopg.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/interview-with-jim-mckrell/ (accessed November 17, 2017).
“James MacKrell [sic].” Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0572100/ (accessed November 17, 2017).
William H. Pruden III
Last Updated 11/17/2017
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