Dave Ward’s distinctive voice rang out at the official dedication of the Crime Stoppers of Houston headquarters, although the language was a bit saltier than what the iconic news anchor used on TV during his illustrious 50-year career at Channel 13.
"Let me leave you with these words one more time," Ward said as he launched into his professional newsman voice. "Crime Stoppers will pay a $5,000 cash reward this week for information leading to the arrest and charging of the asshole who committed this felony. Call Crime Stoppers 713-222-TIPS."
Amid laughter and huge applause, Ward was honored for longtime support of the Houston crime-fighting program, which was founded 36 years ago. In recognition of his efforts, officials named the new Crime Stoppers building in Midtown— the only such headquarters of its kind in the world — in his honor.
"I never dreamed there would be a building on Main Street, a Crime Stoppers building, with my name on it," Ward told a crowd of around 200 notables in the outdoor ceremony. "That blows me away."
For years, Ward pioneered the reenactment of crimes during a regular segment on the Channel 13 nightly newscast that became a ratings winner and a crime solver. "This program works and has since day one. Some of the earliest tip calls that came in from Crime Stoppers came in from inmates from the state prison in Huntsville," Ward said. "A rat ratting on a rat. I love that."
And it became a worldwide phenomenon, Ward recalled, noting the time he and his wife, Laura Ward, were in London "and I told the cab driver our hotel, and he wheeled around and said, "Why you're Mr. Crime Stoppers!’ You could have knocked me over with a feather.
"The BBC in London had aired some of our reenactment of crimes in Houston as an example to get a Crime Stoppers program started in London, which they did.”
Ward singled out two of his former co-anchors, Jan Carson and Shara Fryer, in the audience. Also on hand were many of his former Channel 13 colleagues, including Melaine Lawson, Tim Melton, with his wife Sandy, Tom Koch, Art Rascon and Ted Olberg. Ward retired from the station late last year, after serving such a long tenure that he is named in Guinness World Records as the longest running local TV news anchor in the world at the same station in the same market.
Other notables included Jeff and Rachel Bagwell, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, who once headed up Crime Stoppers, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzales, and Houston City Council members Brenda Stardig, Jack Christie, Karla Cisneros, and Mike Knox.
Among those saluting Ward were Crime Stoppers executive director Rania Mankarious, a couple of Texas State Troopers who presented Ward with an official Texas Trooper cowboy hat for his dedication to helping law enforcement, and Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, whose remarks were met with loud chants from protestors on the public sidewalk who said they are alarmed by Patrick's advocacy of the controversial "bathroom bill" requiring transgender people to use the restroom that corresponds to the sex listed on their birth certificate, not the one they currently identify with.
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who followed Patrick, diffused the tense situation by telling the audience that the freedom to speak one’s mind is one of the nation's great hallmarks.