Area loses Chris Bowman

At age 51, Chris Bowman, WNTA 1330- AM radio talk-show host, died on Tuesday, Feb. 3, after a sudden illness.

Noted for the controversial and news-breaking content of his radio shows, Bowman was also very active in the Republican political scene locally and nationally and was a former television journalist.

WNTA’s complete press release and his biographical information from the station’s Web site appear at the end of this article.

He was a highly competitive and aggressive journalist, often being the first to break a story and call it his.

Bowman frequently had national political figures on his program, displaying an access and savvy unmatched in local media.

A frequent guest on Bowman’s radio show, Dr. Thomas Fleming, president of Rockford Institute and editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, said: “Chris had his own point of view and was never shy about expressing it. But unlike most talk-show hosts, he was willing to let his guests and his callers express their opinions. This openness made Bowman’s show perhaps the freest talk radio show in the Middle West, which explains why he attracted so many listeners from outside the Rockford area.”

Stephanie Caltagerone, former Rockford school board member, said: “The first thing is that I already miss his laugh. That goes without saying that there were many community issues that he was an integral part of, and I’ll certainly miss working with him that way. More than anything, I’ll miss the afternoon calls when he woke up from his nap, saying, ‘Hi, honey. How was your day?’, knowing full well what my day was going to be before I did.”

Well known for his scrambling to line up stories before his show, his constant phone calls to sources and his unique humor, Bowman pushed the envelope of journalism as few in his field dare.

Jeff Havens, staff writer for this paper and also a frequent guest on Bowman’s show, said: “Chris Bowman and I shared an interest in revealing the truth. In so doing, we often shared information in a business that frowns on cooperation. Chris and I were more interested in exposing the truth with the hope that the truth would increase our freedom and understanding of the community in which we were both raised and lived.

“Chris was one of two people who gave me a voice and venue to expose the truth about what was happening at Rock Valley College,” Havens added. “While many doubted and abandoned me during the early days of the Rock Valley College story, Chris did not, and for that I will always be grateful.

“Chris had aspirations to change the county’s priorities about how the jail tax money is being spent. We planned to have crime expert Dr. Michael Hazlett on Chris’ show Feb. 16. We will continue what Chris would have wanted.

“Chris was interested in seeking the truth, and I am confident that he has found the ultimate truth—THE CUBS WON THE WORLD SERIES!” Havens said.

Despite the fact that he was a Cubs fan, or perhaps indicatively, Bowman was also a front page columnist for this paper for three years. His first column on May 10, 1995, “Warrior Breed—is there a connection?”, dealt with gun control, religious controversy, and the school district.”

Bowman is credited by many as one of the leading media persons who helped in the removal of the tort tax, or taxation without representation by Federal Magistrate P. Michael Mahoney.

His last two items for this paper appeared on Sept. 23, 1998. The first was a headline news story, “School Board refuses to use ‘Illegal’ Tort Fund,” and the second was his column, “Rockford property taxes highest in the U.S.”

In the latter piece, he disputed a Kiplinger Personal Finance Monthly magazine article that ranked Rockford fourth in the nation for property taxes paid. He also disputed the Rockford Register Star’s figures on the subject and showed we were “tops.”

The last two paragraphs of that column were classic Bowman—to the news-breaking point, clever and to some unpopular or offensive. Those paragraphs read: The purpose of this correction is not to paint a bleak picture or to be negative. You can’t solve the problems of this community by sticking your head in the quicksand of untruths. Once we realize the strength of this community, faced with a domineering federal court, we will stop challenging ‘negative’ news like this, admit the present and work for positive change. We should not box ourselves in, Magistrate Mahoney. Creating more inequity fails to remedy past inequity.

“Memo to RRS: Just the facts, ma’am.”

Bowman left these pages due to deadline conflicts.

On a sad, typically weary, yet smiling personal note as an editor, Bowman, you always push deadline, even when you’ve left. It’s Tuesday and time to go to press, with news of your departure that all of us here at The Rock River Times are very sorry to print. To his long-time partner Bill Rose, family, friends and listeners, this paper’s staff extends our condolences and best wishes. The news in Rockford will be missing some great stories.

Chris Bowman’s Work History

• 6/94-Present: WNTA 1330 AM, Radio Talk Show Host

• 9/92-6/94: WROK 1440 AM, Radio Talk Show Host

• 11/91-9/92: Regional Representative to the U.S. Secretary of Labor

• 5/90-11/91: Consultant to the Lynn Martin Senate Campaign Committee

• 2/89-5/90: Account Executive for Ruder-Finn Public Relations

• 12/86-2/89: Political Director for Republican National Committee

• 2/85-12/86: Deputy Executive Director for the National Republican Congressional Committee

• 1/81-2/85: Chief of Staff to the U.S. House Representative Lynn Martin

• 9/79-1/81: Assistant News Director and Reporter at WIFR-TV


• 9/70-12/74: Drake University, B.A. in Radio & TV Journalism

• 9/66-6/70: Guilford High School

WNTA Press Release

WNTA Radio talk show host Chris Bowman died today (Feb. 3, 2004) following a short, sudden illness. He was 51.

“It is a tragic day for all of us,” said Bob Rhea, RadioWorks president. “Chris Bowman dedicated his career to the Rockford community. He will be sorely missed.”

Bowman has been a lightning rod for local issues of public importance since he began hosting a local radio talk show in September 1992. He spent his first 22 months on local radio with WROK.

Following his June 1994 termination at WROK, Bowman was immediately hired by WNTA and has hosted a midday talk program continuously for more than nine and one-half years.

Himself a product of Rockford schools and a 1970 graduate of Guilford High School, Bowman was most noted for his tenacious attention to the ongoing sagas involving public education. For most of his talk tenure, the Rockford District operated under the control of a federal magistrate resulting from a consent decree in a desegregation lawsuit.

The Bowman Show was a magnet for breaking local news stories due to his extensive contacts in the local community, regionally and nationally.

His media career bookended 11 years of political work. His first media job was as a reporter and later assistant news director at WIFR-TV in Rockford. He left that job in January 1981 to become chief of staff to United States Representative Lynn Martin.

In February 1985, Bowman became deputy executive director for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Two years later, he began serving the Republican National Committee as political director, a position he held until February of 1989.

He was a consultant for Lynn Martin’s unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate in 1990, and then served as Martin’s regional representative as she served President George H. Bush as Secretary of Labor. He moved back to Rockford in September 1992 to begin his radio career.

Bowman was a 1974 graduate of Drake University with a bachelor of arts degree in radio and TV journalism.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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