Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Bonds, Bill

Bill Bonds anchored the news on Detroit television for most of four decades. He drew viewers in massive numbers with his dramatic and fearsomely opinionated style, attracting fans and detractors in then-unseen numbers

Born February 23, 1932 in Detroit, Bonds’ mother taught English and his father worked in advertising.  After serving in the U.S. Air Force, Bonds earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Detroit before beginning his career for $1.50 an hour at an Albion radio station. His aggressive coverage of a tornado at Anchor Bay on May 8, 1964 which killed 11 people and injured more than 200, brought him to the attention of WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) general manager John Pival.

Upon finding a home at Channel 7, Bonds further distinguished himself while anchoring the station’s coverage of the 1967 Detroit Uprising. Mayor Coleman A. Young later remarked that Bonds bled for the city during that week. He left for three years to work at KABC-TV in Los Angeles but did not meet the same success as he had in Detroit. Once re-established at WXYZ-TV, Bonds became the station’s best-known newscaster, co-anchoring the evening news with Diana Lewis

Bonds became increasingly controversial and confrontational. His tough – some said “over-the-top” – grilling of U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch drove the Utah lawmaker to walk away from their interview. Bonds also challenged Mayor Young to a fistfight, an incident for which Bonds later apologized. Some of Bonds’ belligerence was fueled by a drinking problem which he struggled to overcome.

He was released from the station in 1995, returning a few years later to host a short-lived morning interview program. Following his participation in WXYZ’s 50th anniversary celebration, Bonds worked briefly as a commentator for the station, then left, becoming a spokesman for Gardner-White furniture company. He last appeared on Channel 7’s airwaves on October 21, 2008, anchoring the news for a one-time outing to celebrate the station’s 60 years on the airwaves. 

Bill Bonds died in his home on December 13, 2014 of a heart attack.