Shelby Scott, the former president of AFTRA who helped spearhead the 2012 merger of SAG and AFTRA, has died. She was 86. Scott, a longtime television news broadcaster, served as AFTRA’s national president from 1993-2001. She was a member of the “Group for One Union” of SAG and AFTRA leaders who spearheaded the 2012 merger effort and co-led a merger workgroup, one of only ten elected leaders to do so.
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“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 SAG-AFTRA national executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. “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.”
Over the course of her long broadcasting career, she was awarded United Press International’s Tom Phillips Citation for Excellence in Broadcasting, the William F. Horner Jr. Award from Suffolk University for Excellence in Journalism, and was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcast Hall of Fame in 2008.
Scott began her career as traffic manager for KIRO-TV and radio in her hometown of Seattle, before becoming an on-air reporter, writer, film editor and documentary producer for the station. In 1965, she was hired by Boston CBS affiliate WBZ, spending many years as an anchor and general assignment reporter. She co-anchored WBZ’s Channel 4 “News at Noon” for 14 years, its 5:30 News for five years, and became part of its first female anchor team there in 1977 with Gail Harris. She stayed behind the anchor’s desk until the mid-1980s, returning to the field as a reporter, where she covered the Massachusetts State House and major weather events. She retired in 1996 but continued to freelance whenever a major storm hit the New England area.
Scott was elected to the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists’ national board in 1981 and became president of the union in 1993, after serving as national first vice president and president of the Boston Local. She led AFTRA through its first attempted merger with the Screen Actors Guild in 1998/99, and through numerous major contract negotiations, including the AFTRA Network and Sound Recordings codes.
In 1997, during her term as AFTRA national president, President Bill Clinton appointed her to the Advisory Committee on Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters. For her service to the union, she was awarded AFTRA’s George Heller Gold Card.
After leaving office in 2001, she remained on the board of directors, and served again as a national vice president. She also served as the union co-chair to the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds Board of Trustees and as the president of the AFTRA Foundation. In 2012, during her term as AFTRA Foundation president, she helped set up the Superstorm Sandy Relief Fund to help SAG-AFTRA members and staff affected by the storm.
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