BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) – Baton Rouge legend, William “Bill” Black, known as Buckskin Bill, passed away Wednesday, January 10, according to family members. Buckskin was born in 1929.
Say the name “Buckskin” to longtime residents of Baton Rouge and immediately, their eyes light up, smiles appear on their faces, and the trips down memory lane begin.
What was it about this young entertainer and salesman that captured the hearts of children and their parents in the Capital City?
Who is Buckskin Bill Black?
In 1955 William P. Black was working at a television station in Tulsa, Oklahoma when he was contacted by a former boss, who had signed WAFB Channel 28 on the air. He offered the tall, youthful radio personality a job as an entertainer and salesman. Black packed his bags and made his way to Baton Rouge.
Bill Black began his television career as a cameraman and floorman. During that time, he wanted to create a television character that children could relate to. Black had worked his way through college as a rodeo clown and was a comic and emcee in Army shows during his stint in the Korean War. He knew how to command an audience.
For more about Buckskin’s career, read the story below:
Buckskin Bill passed away on Wednesday, January 10 in the late afternoon. His wife, Elma, passed away on April 5, 2017.
Bucksin’s son says back in November of 2017, Buckskin broke his hip after a fall and had surgery for a partial hip replacement. He had been dealing with complications ever since. Buckskin developed an infection and reportedly took a turn for the worse after New Year’s.
His son calls him a “natural entertainer.”
The family says they appreciate the love the community has shown towards Buckskin.
Buckskin leaves behind three children: a son, Bucky, who lives in North Carolina and two daughters, Ann and Ginger, who live in Louisiana.
Click here to offer your condolences to the family on Facebook. The family says they are still finalizing funeral arrangements.
The BREC Baton Rouge Zoo released a statement about Buckskin’s passing. Buckskin Bill’s Penny March was instrumental in helping the zoo buy its first two elephants in the 1960s. The statement from zoo director, Phil Frost, reads:
There’s no question, we have always enjoyed visiting with Bill Black (“Buckskin” Bill). We invited him out to the zoo on many occasions for several special events, as well as to simply visit. He always had great stories to share about the Penny March, which was instrumental in helping the zoo purchase its first two elephants in the late 1960’s. In fact, the zoo’s current mascot is call ‘Penny’ in honor of that legacy.
As I have gone out into the community and spoken to clubs and organizations, it has been rare to not have someone approach me and tell me about their fond memories and experience with the Penny March and Buckskin Bill. I have never grown tired of hearing the community express how they, as a child, gave pennies. We are forever indebted and truly grateful to Bill Black for his support and his willingness to help the Baton Rouge Zoo become a reality. Bill Black will be immensely missed, however his memory will live on as a trailblazer who brought together the community for a common cause.
A 30-minute special, entitled Remembering Buckskin Bill, will air on WAFB on Friday, January 12 at 6:30 p.m.