Kangaroo NeighborJames E. Wall

(Reading Time: < 1 minute)

Wall was the second African-American stagehand at the CBS television network, but it was what he did for one of the shows he worked on that brought him to prominence: he suggested that the show have a black character; it was all-white. “I stayed on the case about not having a black performer or black guests on the show,” he said years later, “because I said, ‘Listen, this is America, and you are dealing with our leaders of tomorrow. They’re the children. You have got to let them know what America is.’” The show: Captain Kangaroo, a children’s show. And the show listened — and didn’t just give Wall the part, but made him audition for it. Later, “the Captain came down and eased up to me. He says, ‘You got the part.’ He says, ‘Not because we know you and like you; you did the best audition.’” In 1968, six years after he was hired on to the show as a stage manager, Wall was cast as “Mr. Baxter”, a teacher and Capt. Kangaroo’s neighbor. He played the role for 10 years. Even after officially retiring from CBS in 1988, Wall still regularly worked as a stage manager, including on the CBS Evening News and 60 Minutes, and for 41 consecutive years on the U.S. Open Tennis Championships telecasts. He didn’t fully retire until 2009, and died October 27 at 92.

From This is True for 31 October 2010