Jack Hill: The Final Sign-off for a Local News Legend

KAIT’s news trifecta in the 1980s. Jack Hill, Terry Wood and Dick Clay.

At the national level there was Cronkite, Brinkley, Jennings, Huntley and so many more.

At the local level in Northeast Arkansas, there was Jack Hill.

Most readers who come across this post never heard of this local journalism icon, but in the 1980’s Jack Hill defined television news here.

At 72, Hill died Friday in Little Rock.

Jack Hill wasn’t a puff and fluff news anchor. He was an investigative reporter, pure and true. Hill could be an awkward man in social settings, but put a microphone in his hand and a camera man by his side, throw in controversy, and Hill was magnificent.

Dr. Ray Scales, pastor of New Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church was Hill’s go-to man during his tenure at KAIT-TV in Jonesboro. Scales was by Hill’s side for countless investigative news quests.

Hill’s go-to camera man was Ray Scales (right).

“Jack had a love for the truth,” Scales said. “The level of love he had for the truth was what made him different.”

Hill may best be known for his investigative stories in St. Francis County Arkansas in the early 80s when he did a series of stories on the infamous county sheriff, Coolidge Conley.

Conley and his crew of henchmen castrated a man accused of raping the daughter of a prominent Forest City, Arkansas resident early in the decade. He proudly displayed the testicles of the accused man in a Mason jar in his office.

That’s a fact. It’s God’s honest truth.

The story behind the story … In an attempt to track Conley down in a remote rural area of the county on Saturday, Hill and his camera man found Conley and crew partying in a run-down cabin, and following his attempt to interview them, Hill’s life was threatened. He was chased through the woods for hours fearing for his life.

Hill also investigated the Posse Comitatus cult of Lawrence County, Arkansas, and his series of stories on accidents at railroad crossings changed the course of railroad intersection safety to present day.

“We stayed in touch several times a year after he left Jonesboro,” Scales said. “You could always expect a call from Jack around December the 20th every year. We’d talk for hours.”

I’ll miss you, Jack Hill.

Thanks for the news memories.

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