Longtime Fargo TV news anchor, radio host and stage actor, Doug Hamilton, dies
Doug Hamilton, 72, of Fargo, died Friday, Aug. 5, 2022 of complications of acute myeloid leukemia.
FARGO — A friendly and familiar face and voice in the F-M metro as a longtime radio host, television news anchor and stage actor has died.
Doug Hamilton, age 72 of Fargo, died Friday, August 5, under the care of hospice at Sanford Medical Center.
Hamilton had fought acute myeloid leukemia, a type of blood cancer, since late May of 2021.
A memorial celebration is set for 11 a.m. Friday, August 26, inside Delmar J. Hansen Theatre at Minnesota State University Moorhead, Hamilton’s alma mater.
Hamilton’s son, Ben Hamilton of St. Paul, said he was grateful his dad was able to stay with him during breaks from treatment at Minnesota Fairview hospital in Minneapolis over the past year or so.
“I got to know him in a deeper way than I ever could have imagined. Having had this time with him… I wouldn't trade it for anything,” his son said.
Hamilton underwent a bone marrow transplant last fall from a donor described as a good match, but the transplant didn’t “take.”
He enrolled in multiple medical trials in an effort to beat the cancer and was prepared to join another one up until a few days before his death, his son said.
Longtime friend John Tandberg said he and Hamilton talked often.
“He was never, ever downbeat. He was always going to fix this thing,” Tandberg said.
Many of Hamilton’s lifelong friendships, including with Tandberg, began in the late 1960s-early 1970s in the theater department at MSUM.
Steve Poitras met Hamilton during the Straw Hat Players season in summer of 1967 and the two appeared in numerous theatrical productions together in the years to follow, including more recently in “I Hate Hamlet” at Fargo Moorhead Community Theatre.
“Along with his brilliance, Doug was a lot of fun. We shared many, many laughs whenever we were together,” Poitras said in a statement to The Forum. “It’s hard to believe he’s gone.”
Hamilton made many more lasting friendships during his radio and television careers in Fargo-Moorhead that began in 1975, in which he worked as a news anchor, reporter, executive producer, weather anchor, program host, and as voice and spokesperson for corporate, business, civic and public service organizations.
Hamilton’s longest stint in television ran from 1986 to 1995, when he anchored the 5 and 10 p.m. newscasts at then KTHI-TV, now KVLY.
Charley Johnson was a competitor and a co-worker of Hamilton’s at various times in their broadcast careers, both at KXJB-TV and KTHI/KVLY.
“Doug was kind of the perfect friend — super smart, well read, a deep thinker, talented actor and broadcaster,” Johnson said, adding that Hamilton was naturally relatable, compassionate and witty.
After his TV career, Hamilton spent two years as a news anchor and reporter at KFGO radio, where he was a member of the news team awarded a Peabody for coverage of the 1997 “Flood of the Century.”
He then transitioned to academia, where he worked for nearly 15 years as executive director of University Advancement at MSUM.
But after he retired from MSUM in 2011, he jumped right back into the media business, taking a job as host of “Main Street” on the Prairie Public radio network, where he worked until last year.
Show producer Skip Wood, who’d also known Hamilton since their TV days, said Doug was always well informed and well prepared, insightful and personable.
“Many experienced radio guests expressed appreciation for the excellent interviewing,” Wood said.
Host Ashley Thornberg, whose first day on “Main Street” coincided with Hamilton’s, said she was eager to learn from and work alongside him.
Early on, she was self-conscious about her voice and asked Hamilton for advice.
“He said, ‘Why don't you try sounding like yourself?’” she said. “From the very first moment, he was teaching me to trust myself,” Thornberg said.
In addition to his many professional roles, Hamilton gave his time and talent to many charitable causes, co-hosting the annual Children’s Miracle Network telethon from 1986 to 1998, serving as a member of the 2000 All-America City delegation for Fargo-Moorhead, chairing the United Way of Cass-Clay campaign in 2007 and hosting Silent Movie Night at the Fargo Theatre since 1978.
“He was an expert in so many different venues. He was just relentlessly creative,” Tandberg said.
While Hamilton will be remembered for his professional accomplishments, his friendship and acts of kindness stand out even more.
Poitras said in 1997, when his South Terrace neighborhood of Fargo was hit hard by flooding, Hamilton was there to help with three full days of cleaning silty Red River water out of the basement.
“I was the friend in need and he was my friend, indeed,” Poitras said.
Another lifelong friend, Steven “Spider” Johnk, is among a collection of loyal pals who meet weekly for drinks and dinner at a certain downtown Fargo restaurant.
“He was a card-carrying Mezzaluna-tic member in good standing for years. The chair at the table will be so hard to fill,” Johnk said.
Hamilton’s family said he would want any donations or memorial gifts to be made to local arts, public media organizations, artists and to “African Soul, American Heart,” a nonprofit founded by his beloved partner, Deb Dawson.
Ben Hamilton also asked that interested parties check out the worldwide bone marrow registry bethematch.org, which helps match donors with people facing life-threatening blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma.