Bob McCafferty, a longtime Northern California TV newsman and public relations executive who served in the administrations of three governors, died Dec. 26 of heart failure, his family said. He was 76.
Mr. McCafferty was a gregarious man with boundless curiosity and love of life. Energetic and prolific, he spent his life learning new subjects, meeting people and telling their stories as a news reporter, PR man, public speaker and magazine writer. He served the community as a volunteer.
“Bob was just a great guy, somebody my father would have called a ‘hail fellow well met,’ ” broadcasting veteran Stan Atkinson said. “He was incredibly focused and interested in everything. He was intense, but it was a very positive and infectious intensity. If a conversation was dragging, he’d bring it back to life.”
Mr. McCafferty launched his career with discipline and determination in the 1960s. Although he wanted to be a journalist, he landed his first job after graduating from the Don Martin School of Broadcasting in Hollywood as an engineer at KHSL Channel 12 in Chico. On his days off, he followed the station’s news reporter around holding microphones, lugging equipment and doing anything he could to learn the profession.
When the reporter left after six months, Mr. McCafferty got the job. Then the news director and anchorman left, and he was called again into the station manager’s office for another promotion.
“Hey kid,” Mr. McCafferty said, recalling the conversation in a 1994 story in The Bee. “We’re going to give you a $25-a-month raise and make you famous.”
Mr. McCafferty moved to Sacramento in 1967 and worked at KXTV Channel 10, KOVR Channel 13 and KVIE Channel 6. In 1972, he took a job with Gov. Ronald Reagan’s communications staff and created a broadcast news service for California radio stations. He served as media director for the state Assembly Republican caucus and was communications director for the Employment Development Department in Gov. Jerry Brown’s first administration.
He moved into public relations as a partner at Huckaby, McNally & McCafferty before starting his own firm, McCafferty & Co. A charismatic man with a gift for storytelling, he became a professional speaker and taught seminars on communications and media interviewing skills. He received a lifetime achievement award from the Sacramento Public Relations Association and was named 1994 member of the year by the Sacramento chapter of the National Speakers Association.
“Bob had a magnetic personality that just lit up the room,” longtime Sacramento broadcaster John Iander said. “He made everyone feel good. When you fell down in life, you could call him and he’d cheer you up. He always had a great story to tell.”
Mr. McCafferty returned to state service as a spokesman for the Department of Aging under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He wrote for magazines and other publications – including Comstock’s, Sacramento, Air & Space/Smithsonian and the Los Angeles Times – and received two awards from the Society of Professional Journalists.
Robert Maurice McCafferty was born Nov. 14, 1937, in Seattle. He served six years in the Air Force and settled in California in 1964.
He was a board member and leader of professional and community organizations, including the Sacramento chapter of the American Heart Association, the Sacramento Public Relations Association and the Aerospace Museum of California. A Fair Oaks resident since 1979, he was active in the Fair Oaks Chamber of Commerce as vice president, newsletter editor and photographer.
He enjoyed backpacking and mountain climbing for many years. At 48, he quit a five-pack-a-day smoking habit to start running and ran three times in the California International Marathon.
“He stopped (running) when he had hip surgery about 10 years ago,” his wife Dee said. “Every time he saw somebody running, he’d say, ‘I miss running.’ ”
Besides his wife of 35 years, Mr. McCafferty is survived by four children from a previous marriage, Jeff, Bob, Kathy Marie and Donna Adair; nine grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. A celebration of his life is being planned.
Call The Bee’s Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Davila.