Longtime Channel 6 anchor Ben Aycrigg dies

Aycrigg dubbed 'Walter Cronkite of Central Florida'

ORLANDO, Fla. – Longtime Channel 6 anchor and Central Florida television legend Ben Aycrigg died Tuesday night at his Maitland home of renal failure.

Aycrigg was 88 years old.

Aycrigg was the first television news reporter in Central Florida and began his career when Channel 6 launched in 1961 as the first television station in Central Florida, known then as WDBO, long before it was WKMG. Channel 6 started with 1 reporter (Aycrigg), 1 anchor, and 1 photojournalist.

Aycrigg started at a time when Central Florida was rapidly expanding and growth was the "biggest continuing news story we have," as Aycrigg described it. Those were the days of film cameras, dark rooms, and ticker machines.

For 35 years, Aycrigg appeared on television screens across Central Florida, first as a reporter then as an anchor.

"It's kinda like full circle, because when I started my career he was my first co-anchor," said Annetta Wilson, the first African-American anchor in Central Florida. "And then when he ended his career I was proud to be sitting by his side."

"And because he was serious about the work, the rest of us said we had to get serious," said Wilson. "He was the dean of the newsroom and showed us how it was supposed to be done."

Aycrigg became known as the Walter Cronkite of Central Florida and one of the most respected voices in Central Florida news. 

"He knew the public trusted us that when we came on the air people believed what we said," said Wilson. "It was important that what we were saying was the truth."

"Even Walter Cronkite looked up to Ben, and that's saying a lot," said senior Local 6 photojournalist Tee Taylor, who was hired by Aycrigg in 1970. "I basically owe my career to him in the news department to Ben because he saw something in me. 45 years later I'm still doing the same thing he taught me."

Aycrigg moved to Winter Park from Massachusetts in 1942 and attended Winter Park High School and Rollins College.  He was also instrumental in launching WPRK-FM, Rollins College radio station.

"He was a family man, very much a family man," Gerry Aycrigg, Ben's brother. "He'd raised 3 beautiful children."

Gerry Aycrigg said his brother passed up a prestigious opportunity at CBS News in New York City. He didn't want to leave his family in Maitland or Local 6.

"First and foremost was his family and his faith," said Wilson. "Ben was one of those people that whatever he said you believed it, because he lived that way. There was no Ben off the air and on the air."

Aycrigg retired from Channel 6 in 1996.

He is survived by his sister, brother, wife and three children.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.