A beloved and longtime presence in Houston TV journalism is leaving the anchor desk. Bill Balleza, a fixture at the KPRC 2 for 49 years, announced that he is retiring in January 2020. The announcement came at a meeting on October 16, according to the station.
A native of San Antonio, Balleza joined KPRC 2 News in August of 1980 as a reporter and anchor, and became main anchor in 1990, following the legendary Ron Stone.
During his tenure at KPRC 2, Balleza has shared the anchor desk with newscasters Paula Zahn; Jan Carson; Linda Lorelle; and his current co-anchor, Dominique Sachse, since 2001. Balleza, Sachse, and meteorologist Frank Billingsley have become evening favorites with viewers.
Sachse released this statement regarding Balleza’s departure:
Bill, Frank, and I have been family since April 2001. Our friendship runs deep, palpable by our viewers and colleagues alike. What an incredible ride as a team, based on love, comradery, humor and respect. We've always attributed any success not to the efforts of one, but to the contribution of all. It's that mindset that made us work and will continue to do so. Today is bittersweet. I'm elated for my co-anchor who is writing his own script but sad that this era is coming to an end. These next few months will be precious and an opportunity to celebrate someone who doesn't like being in the spotlight, but that's what happens when the good ones retire. What a legacy you leave, Bill, and a high bar you've set.
Balleza has frequently been called upon to lead KPRC 2's news coverage as field anchor on the scene. His career highlights include covering Operation Iraqi Freedom aboard the aircraft carrier USS Truman, the death of Pope John Paul II from the Vatican in 2005, and the Conclave to elect Pope Francis in 2013, according to the station.
He also covered the shooting of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, the Murrah Federal Building explosion in Oklahoma City, and the crash of American Flight 587 in New York, one month after the 9-11 attacks, He earned an Emmy Award for his reporting on the deadly fertilizer company explosion in West, Texas.
Balleza often referenced his time as a Vietnam veteran, serving as a Marine Scout Sniper during the Tet Offensive of 1968. Known throughout Houston media as a humble and generous figure, he has designed and built rooms full of furniture, including for families that he and his KPRC 2 colleagues sponsored for their Houston Habitat for Humanity builds, according to the station.
"It's never easy saying goodbye to a family member, and even more difficult losing an icon," said KPRC 2 vice president and general manager, Jerry Martin, in a statement. "For over 35 years on the anchor desk Bill capitalized the "J" in journalism for our newsroom. It is only fitting that he is retiring at the top of his game with both our 6pm and 10pm newscasts leading the market since 2017."