James Wall, who played Captain Kangaroo’s friendly neighbor “Mr. Baxter” on the 60′s TV show, died in his sleep Wednesday night. Aside from his television celebrity, Wall worked behind the scenes as a stage manager at CBS for more than 50 years, overseeing some of the network’s most important broadcasts. CBS News writes more about his accomplishments.
Wall had been the stage manager for the Captain Kangaroo show since 1962, when he joined CBS, before persuading the show’s producers to create its first black character. The talented former vaudevillian with a wonderful voice and kindly demeanor got the regular role of Mr. Baxter in 1968. He played Baxter and another recurring role on the show for 10 years.
During the same time, Wall was the stage manager for many CBS, CBS News and CBS Sports broadcasts, including the CBS Evening News, Face the Nation, 60 Minutes and NFL Today. In 2008, he was recognized on the air for his 41st consecutive year as stage manager of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships.
One of the stage manager’s many roles is the countdown to air for a live broadcast. In a rich baritone that could call a busy newsroom to attention, Wall counted the time to air for the likes of Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather. “Two minutes to air,” began his count.