The appeal of Jack Hynes, anchorman, never wavered in a Boston career that stretched for half a century. As broadcast news veered toward light banter and entertainment, he stayed true to why he got into the business.
“I look at myself primarily as a journalist and a reporter,” he said in 1973. “Maybe I’m deluding myself.”
Or maybe not. The audience that made Mr. Hynes a top-rated anchorman stayed loyal during his 26 years on Channel 5 and 22 more on Channel 56, drawn to the trademark seriousness with which he delivered the news.
Mr. Hynes, who was 88 when he died of heart failure Tuesday in his home at the Linden Ponds retirement community in Hingham, once suggested that something else also kept people watching as he moved from WBZ to WHDH, WCVB, and WLVI.
“The best thing I can come up with, and it’s a completely intangible thing, is the acceptability factor,” he added in the 1973 interview. “There are some people who, through no design of their own, wear well on audiences. They can go on the air night in and night out and for some elusive reason people don’t object to them.”
With a name that was recognizable throughout the region before his first broadcast, Mr. Hynes brought to his work an encompassing understanding of Boston’s institutions and a love of the city. His father and namesake, John B. Hynes, was Boston’s mayor from 1950 to 1960, but Mr. Hynes set his sights on journalism, not politics.
“He was a reporter to the core,” said his son John III of Boston. “He loved stories. He loved listening. He was less a storyteller than he was a story listener.”
When Mr. Hynes did tell stories, he was perpetually self-deprecating and quick to quip at his own expense. “A woman told me the other day she’d been watching me since she was a little kid,” he told the Globe in 1993. “She was 45. I thought, ‘You certainly do lose track of how old you are.’ ”
By the time he delivered his last commentary in 2006 as a senior correspondent for Channel 56, he had edged past 75. Entire careers of other broadcasters had begun and ended during his lengthy tenure as dean of Boston TV news.
“To say that he was a legend is an understatement. He was so much more than that. He was a true gentleman in every sense of the word,” said Karen Marinella, who was his co-anchor at Channel 56 and now is director of corporate communications at Analog Devices in Norwood.
His longevity in a business that increasingly put a premium on youth was uncommon, if not unprecedented in Boston — not that he let it go to his head. Outside of work, Mr. Hynes disdained the trappings of celebrity that his job conferred.
And in the newsroom, “everybody respected Jack, but he was also so down to earth and welcoming and engaging with everyone,” said Peggy Rose, a former assignment manager at Channel 56 who is now the principal at Peggy Rose Public Relations. “He had no ego. He was fantastic to work with.”
The oldest of five children, John Bernard Hynes Jr. grew up in the Lower Mills part of Dorchester. His mother was the former Marion Barry. His father was a legendary politician who served as acting mayor when his predecessor, James Michael Curley, was sent to prison. After Curley was released from jail, the elder Mr. Hynes defeated him in three straight mayoral elections.
Jack Hynes graduated from Boston College High School and, drawn by its journalism program, received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1952. Afterward, he served in the Marine Corps.
He started out in broadcasting in South Bend, Ind., before returning home in 1957 to host shows on WBZ in the nascent days of TV news. Asked by the Globe if he ever planned to seek office, Mr. Hynes replied: “One politician in the family is enough. Dad can handle that job. I’ll take television.”
Initially, he also worked on the side selling cars, and through that job met Marie Kelly, a model and beauty contest winner who had been the “Breck Girl” in Breck hair product advertisements. They married in 1957.
“They were quite a pair in their day,” said their son Barry of Beverly. “My mother was a beautiful woman — the Breck girl and the Apple Queen — and he was this good-looking news guy in Boston, the son of the mayor.”
The couple had four children and lived much of their married life in Chatham. Mrs. Hynes was 61 when she died in 1998.
Mr. Hynes took up running marathons after turning 50. He ran the Boston Marathon six times and also competed in the New York City Marathon and the Marine Corps Marathon.
His work as a journalist was often honored, including as broadcaster of the year in New England. He was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2008, but for Mr. Hynes “it was not about the accolades, it was about the story,” Barry said. “It was about doing what he was doing, it was about getting it right, it was about telling it like it was.”
In addition to his sons John III and Barry, Mr. Hynes leaves two daughters, Kelly Hynes McDermott of Medfield and Shauna Hynes-Baler of Yarmouth Port; a sister, Marie Hynes Gallagher of Falmouth; two brothers, Barry of South Boston and Richard of Brookline; 10 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
A funeral Mass will be said at 10:30 a.m. Monday in Holy Redeemer Church in Chatham.
As handsome as anyone who sat in a news anchor’s chair, Mr. Hynes was named the nation’s “most telegenic” anchorman by More magazine in 1976. He declined the honor in a telegram: “To accept such an award would not be consistent with my own view of a broadcast journalist.”
Indeed, he joked about the “40 regulars” who could be seen on news broadcasts everywhere. “That’s what I call them,” he said in 1984. “If you travel around the country and turn on TV they all look the same: 26, 27, 28 years old; 40 regular suits, nice teeth, and nice haircuts.”
Mr. Hynes, who was then in his mid-50s, added with a twinkle: “I’m a 40 regular, too – but I’m an old 40 regular.”
More important to him was staying in touch with the news in his city. “Even though he was on the anchor desk, he loved reporting,” Marinella recalled. “Give him a microphone and put him out in the field and he was as happy as could be.”
A homegrown anchorman in a profession where up-and-coming broadcasters floated from market to market, Mr. Hynes was at times the only one on TV who could be counted upon to never mispronounce Billerica or Haverhill or Scituate. Basic Boston knowledge, he said in 1993, was becoming a forgotten talent.
“There are reporters who couldn’t find the corner of Eighth and I streets in South Boston if you told them a guy was standing there handing out thousand-dollar bills,” he lamented.Bryan Marquard can be reached at [email protected].