Shelby Scott, the longtime Boston TV news anchor and former AFTRA leader who pushed for the union’s 2012 merger with SAG, died June 1 at her home in Tucson, Ariz. She was 86.
Scott was a beloved news anchor for CBS’ WBZ-TV Boston for 30 years. She served as national president of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists from 1993 to 2001.
“In front of the camera, Shelby Scott’s career spanned decades and broke barriers. But it is for her work off camera as a dedicated union leader that we at SAG-AFTRA will always be most grateful,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s National Executive Director. “As AFTRA national president for eight years and a board member for many more, as a trustee on the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds, and through her foresight in working to merge SAG and AFTRA, Shelby’s legacy is profound and she will be deeply missed.”
Scott worked for WBZ-TV — a bastion of Beantown broadcasting once owned by Westinghouse and now part of CBS Television Stations — from 1965 until her retirement in 1996. Per WBZ, Scott’s on-the-scene coverage of Boston’s many storms led the Boston Globe newspaper to occasionally measure snowfall in “Shelbys” rather than feet. WBZ noted that Scott would come out of retirement periodically to cover big storms.
“We are so sad to learn of the passing of Shelby Scott. Shelby was a force of nature and a legend for her coverage of New England storms. Every time there is a blizzard or nor’easter, viewers always reminisce about Shelby’s reports and are quick to try to crown the ‘next Shelby Scott,'” said Justin Draper, WBZ-TV president and general manager. “There will never be another Shelby. She was one of a kind, and so much more than a storm reporter.”
Born in Washington state, Scott earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from University of Washington in 1957. She got her start at KIRO-TV Seattle as a traffic manager who rose to become an on-air reporter, producer, editor and documentary filmmaker for the station.
Scott moved across the country to WBZ in 1965, where she spent most of her time as an anchor. In 1977, Scott and Gail Harris became local TV’s first-ever all female anchor team.
In the mid-1980s, Scott came out from behind the desk for the storm coverage that became her trademark. She was also active in AFTRA, joining its national board in 1981. She became president of AFTRA’s Boston local and national vice president before ascending to national president in 1993.
Scott championed an unsuccessful effort to merge AFTRA with its larger rival, the Screen Actors Guild, in 1998 and 1999, but the effort was thwarted in the face of opposition from SAG members who worried about the dilutive impact on SAG’s pension fund and health insurance plans.
More than a decade later, Scott was active behind the scenes when a different SAG regime was able to get the merger referendum vote approved in March 2012. Scott was a key member of the “Group for One Union” coalition of past SAG and AFTRA leaders who lobbied members for the referendum vote and helped lead working groups to handle the complicated integration process.
Scott continued to serve as an AFTRA board member after her time as president. Later she served as AFTRA Foundation president, where she helped assemble the Superstorm Sandy Relief Fund in 2012 to aid SAG-AFTRA members.