Warren A. Culbertson: Pioneered TV-news weather in Dallas

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by By JOE SIMNACHER / The Dallas Morning News

wfaa.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:44 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 11:43 AM

Warren A. Culbertson had an inquisitive nature and a background in science that led him to become a meteorologist during World War II.

After the war, he was a Dallas television weather pioneer, starting his career at WFAA-TV (Channel 8). He became a top TV personality of the 1950s and went on to Chicago television.

In 1966, he returned to Dallas, where he was a meteorologist at KRLD-TV (Channel 4) until he retired from television in 1982.

Mr. Culbertson, 89, died Sunday at Baylor University Medical Center at Waxahachie of complications following surgery to repair a broken hip.

Graveside services will be at 1 p.m. today at Oakwood Cemetery in Corsicana, Texas.

"He had such an inquiring, sharp mind," said his daughter, Margaret Culbertson of Houston. "He was always intrigued by new things and finding out the way things worked. He loved being able to use the new scientific tools to understand the weather he communicated."

Mr. Culbertson was born in Waxahachie, where he graduated from high school.

He earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry with minors in mathematics and physics from Trinity University in 1940. He was a laboratory assistant and graduate student at the University of Texas at Austin before joining the Army Air Forces in 1942 to serve in World War II.

In April 1942, Mr. Culbertson married Dale Frances Martin in Waxahachie. Mrs. Culbertson died in 1998.

Mr. Culbertson earned a master's degree in meteorology from the California Institute of Technology in 1943 while serving in the military.

He served as a military meteorologist in North Africa and Italy, forecasting weather for combat missions.

"Part of it was using balloons to go into the upper atmosphere to get readings they could use in forecasts," his daughter said. "That was a new thing at the time."

After the war, Mr. Culbertson taught chemistry and physics at Arlington State College, now the University of Texas at Arlington.

In 1950, he joined WFAA-TV as the station's first meteorologist, his daughter said.

Mr. Culbertson was a popular speaker, appearing before civic groups and other organizations. In 1956, TV Preview magazine readers voted Mr. Culbertson their top television personality in Dallas-Fort Worth.

In 1958, Mr. Culbertson introduced weather radar to WFAA-TV and his viewers.

"I remember those early days," Ms. Culbertson said. "Now we look back at tapes and it looks so antiquated."

Mr. Culbertson continued to teach in Dallas. In September 1957, he joined the upper school faculty at The Hockaday School, where he taught chemistry.

In 1958, he moved to Chicago, where he was a weatherman at WBKB-TV and had a morning educational show for children.

In March 1961, Mr. Culbertson was robbed and severely beaten by three men as he approached his North Side home.

"It was hard on the family, but he was always a very positive person," his daughter said. "He never let that get him down."

In 1963, he returned to Waxahachie, where he took over his father's wholesale oil business, Culbertson Oil & LP Gas Co. He also served on the Waxahachie City Council.

In 1966, Mr. Culbertson returned to television as weatherman for KRLD-TV (Channel 4), now KDFW-TV.

After he retired from television, Mr. Culbertson did weather reports for KVIL radio.

"He was the perfect dad," his daughter said. "He was very supportive and very helpful, not only to his family but to others."

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Culbertson is survived by another daughter, Kaye Culbertson Fuller of Paige, Texas.

Memorials may be made to the Sims Library in Waxahachie, the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth or a library or museum of choice.

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