William Jack Small was born on Sept. 20, 1926, in Chicago. His mother, Libby (Mell) Small, was a teacher, and his father, Louis, owned a bakery.
William dropped out of high school to enlist in the Army soon after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and served on the Philippine island of Leyte. Following his discharge, he graduated from a five-year interdisciplinary master’s program at the University of Chicago.
After working as the news director of the Chicago radio station WLS, he was hired in 1956 for the same position at WHAS-TV, a CBS affiliate in Louisville, Ky. Under his leadership the station was named the nation’s outstanding news operation by the Radio-Television News Directors Association (now known as RTDNA, or the Radio Television Digital News Association).
Mr. Small’s success at WHAS led CBS News to appoint him its assistant news director at the Washington bureau in 1962. He was elevated the next year to director and manager.
“His bureau would be the breadbasket of the CBS News operation,” Roger Mudd, a longtime CBS correspondent, wrote in “The Place to Be: Washington, CBS, and the Glory Days of Television News” (2008). “The appetite of the evening news and the morning news and the midday news, and later the Saturday news and the Sunday news, would be insatiable, and Small’s bureau would have to be prepared to satisfy it.”
Mr. Small’s jobs after he left CBS did not bring him as much success or renown.
He resigned from NBC News in 1982, after less than three years. He apparently had difficulty blending his experience at CBS — along with that of Mr. Mudd and Bernard and Marvin Kalb, former CBS correspondents he lured to NBC — with NBC’s news tradition, which included stars like Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, who teamed on the evening news for 14 years, and John Chancellor.