Thesp and stage manager James “Jimmy” Wall died Oct. 27 in Manhattan following a short illness. He was 92.
Wall played Mr. Baxter, neighbor to Captain Kangaroo on the children’s show. Wall, a vaudevillian, started as stage manager for “Captain Kangaroo” in 1962, then became its first African-American character in 1968. He played Baxter until 1978.
Simultaneously, Wall worked as stage manager for the CBS Broadcast Center in Manhattan on several news and sports broadcasts, including the “CBS Evening News,” “Face the Nation,” “60 Minutes” and “NFL Today.”
In a deep voice could commanded attention in a busy newsroom, Wall counted the time to air for the likes of Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather as stage manager for “CBS Evening News,” from the 1960s through the 1980s. He would start with “Two minutes to air,” go to “In five,” and count down until a flip of his hand indicated the anchor was on live television.
Wall had a colorful history before coming to showbiz. He went to sea at 15, was a delivery boy for bootleggers during Prohibition and became performed on vaudeville acts around the country and on Broadway stages. He was drafted into the Army and managed USO shows. He went to college on the GI Bill and returned to the theater, stage managing and performing in the same show before he joined CBS.
He served as stage manager for the U.S. Open Championships for more than 40 years, and also managed the coverage of political conventions and elections, presidential inaugurations and the space launches of the 1960s. Ultimately, he worked at CBS for more than 50 years.
Wall received the Directors Guild of America’s Franklin J. Schaffner Acheivement Award in 1994.
He is survived by his wife, Dolly.