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Life After TV

Politics, hurricanes & Oprah: After two decades, Houston TV news star looks to new adventures

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Mary Benton Dominique Sachse
Channel 2 news anchor Dominique Sachse, right, said farewell to news reporter Mary Benton at one of several goodbye parties. Photo by Vicky Pink
Mary Benton, Annise Parker
Mary Benton, with the help of Houston mayor Annise Parker celebrated, her namesake day on July 15 at City Hall. Photo by Vicky Pink
Mary Benton
Mary Benton worked at Channel 2 for 20 years. Photo by Vicky Pink
Mary Benton Khambrel Marshall
Channel 2 colleagues Mary Benton and Khambrel Marshall. Photo by Vicky Pink
Mary Benton Party
Friends and colleagues from local television stations celebrated Mary Benton's 20-year career. Photo by Vicky Pink
Mary Benton
Channel 2 colleagues Mary Benton and  Amy Davis. Photo by Vicky Pink
Mary Benton, Ron Stone Jr. Sherri Presley
Channel 2 colleagues Mary Benton, Cheri Pressley and Ron Stone Jr. Photo by Vicky Pink
Mary Benton
Channel 2 colleagues Lauren Freeman and Mary Benton. Photo by Vicky Pink
Mary Benton Chester Pitts
Chester Pitts, Mary Benton. Photo by Vicky Pink
Mary Benton Dominique Sachse
Mary Benton, Annise Parker
Mary Benton
Mary Benton Khambrel Marshall
Mary Benton Party
Mary Benton
Mary Benton, Ron Stone Jr. Sherri Presley
Mary Benton
Mary Benton Chester Pitts

In 20 years of broadcast journalism, Mary Benton has covered politicians and taken cover from hurricanes. She’s been a fixture at Houston City Hall and an election night staple, reporting from balloon-filled ballrooms where victory or defeat were sometimes separated by only a few votes.

But timing, opportunity and the fulfillment of her life’s dream led Benton to start her second act away from the cameras. She's taking on a new role in media affairs and public relations with a Harris County government organization and is looking forward to what’s next.

“This job came along at the right time and I felt like God was saying, ‘This is my plan for you.’ It allowed me to step out in faith,” Benton said.

 “I never approached TV as being glamorous. I’m not a size 4, I’m not a cookie cutter reporter, and viewers would come up to me and thank me for being different and being plus-size on television,” Benton said. 

During her two decades at KPRC Channel 2, Benton flexed her journalism muscles on a variety of stories. She spent weeks in Amarillo, covering the Oprah Winfrey versus Texas cattlemen trial, an experience that ranks high on her favorite list.

Another favorite? Bob Lanier, the first mayor she covered when starting at Channel 2.

“I hold him in high regard. He was larger than life and so many people looked up to him,” Benton said.

Mayors Lee Brown, Bill White and Annise Parker followed, and Benton said each put their own mark on Houston.

“Bill White was a businessman, Lee Brown was a former lawman and Annise Parker brings progressive style politics,” Benton said.

Her career came full circle Tuesday when the city proclaimed July 15 Mary Benton Day in Houston. Benton was touched and a smidge embarrassed by the proclamation, but she encouraged friends and fans to celebrate in a truly authentic Houston way.

“Have some Tex-Mex, sip on a margarita and eat some Blue Bell,” Benton said. “All the attention is a little bit much for me, but it’s special.”

Despite being in front of the camera, Benton often shies away from attention, but over the years she realized how important it was to be visible.

“I never approached TV as being glamorous. I’m not a size 4, I’m not a cookie cutter reporter, and viewers would come up to me and thank me for being different and being plus-size on television,” Benton said.

She’s lost countless pairs of shoes to mud and high water, and even her hair has had some not-so-glamorous moments. “I had a rinse put on my hair. It was just semi-permanent and the next day I had to go cover a major rain storm with whipping winds,” Benton said. “After the live shot my photographer asks me what all the black stuff was running down the sides of my face.”

Oh yes, the glamour and mystique of television.

In the week leading up to signing off from Channel 2, Benton’s friends and colleagues held parties for her, celebrating her television career. She said there were opportunities to a different city and a new station, but Houston, as it does for so many, became home.

“I’ve done everything I can do here, so why not go out on a high note?” Benton said. “Journalism will always be in my blood. I love the adrenalin of TV’s pace, but I ready to try something new. I’m ready for a new adventure.”

And a few new pairs of shoes too.

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