Judd McIlvain, distinguished CBS and Fox News journalist and investigative reporter, champion of truth and advocate for the underdog, passed away at his home in Woodland Hills, California. He was 73 years old. To the millions of followers over his storied career, he’ll always be remembered as TroubleShooter Judd.
Judd was half of the dynamic Herlinda and Judd team whose marriage spanned 47 years. They met in Moline, Illinois, and in 1967 moved to Houston, Texas, where they raised their two sons and daughter. He often spoke with touching pride and love about his wife’s support that enabled him to be out in the world, fulfilling his purpose here on earth. He adored his family.
Judd’s first experience in television was in Bloomington, Illinois, when, at age 12, he convinced the local TV station that a kids’ TV talk show would be a big hit. He wrote, produced, and hosted Children’s Digest and sold it to the sponsors. His family didn’t even own a TV in 1954 and had to buy one just to watch Judd on his first show. His first radio appearance came at age 15, when he served as a disk jockey on broadcasts from KBIA and KFRU radio stations in Columbia, Missouri. At 17, while producing his TV Dance Party in Jefferson City, he bucked the Ku Klux Klan and local officials who tried to prevent him from hosting African American youths on a white dance show in the 1950s. Judd prevailed.
He joined the National Guard after high school and went on active duty with the U.S. Army, serving as a military police officer and becoming one of the youngest to reach the rank of sergeant. He served four more years in reserves while working part-time in radio and TV news and earned his bachelor of journalism degree at Columbia University. A reporter in search of stories, he traveled independently to Central America where he wired war stories back to the U.S. ABC News signed him, as did United Press International (UPI). One of his favorite stories was about his escape from a Venezuela jail after being arrested for photographing the secret police beating demonstrators at the dictator Peres Jimenez’s trial.
For 18 years, Judd worked for KHOU-TV in Houston as the assignment editor, general reporter, and investigative reporter, later creating the investigative series The McIlvain Files. In 1986 Rupert Murdoch brought him to the Fox network news division in Los Angeles, where he developed The Troubleshooter. In 1988 Judd moved The Troubleshooter to CBS-2 for 10 years and while there developed The Troubleshooter Show. Concurrently, he worked on the CBS 48 Hours program with Dan Rather and later with Geraldo Rivera on ABC’s 20/20. He set legal precedent in a landmark Texas Supreme Court case, McIlvain vs. Jacobs, which established the definition of “substantial truth” in libel law for many years.
During his “retirement” he continued to dedicate himself to helping victims of crime and fraud through his web TV show. TroubleShooterJudd.com was viewed by millions all over the world, and he got calls for help from the Caribbean islands, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Africa, and across the United States.
Judd never missed an opportunity to advocate for the needy and abused, appear at charity events, or counsel a student. His style was so congenial that almost everyone he contacted cooperated with him. Judd never gave up.
His journalistic awards include two Emmys, eight Golden Mikes, four Los Angeles Press Club awards, and Texas’ highest award for investigative reporting, the Headliners Award.
Judd is survived by his wife, Herlinda; daughter Marisol McIlvain Sagheb; sons Aaron and Sean McIlvain; brother Gary McIlvain, wife Val, and daughters Morgan and Felicia; and sister Carolyne Culotti and her daughter Christi and husband Hal. He is also survived by his beloved parents-in-law, Dolores and Fidencio Barajas. Judd was predeceased by his parents, Gaylord and Martha McIlvain. He also has many aunts, uncles, cousins, and other extended family who celebrate his life and is survived by thousands of colleagues, fans, and friends who have had their lives enriched in one way or another because of knowing him.
Memorial service will be held Wednesday, March 18, from 6 PM to 9 PM at Malinow Silverman Chapel, 7366 Osage Ave., Los Angeles; contact – Rob Karlin, 310-973-3905. Donations for the purpose of continuing Judd’s fight against elder abuse can be made payable to The Troubleshooter Foundation and sent to 23448 Bessemer St. Woodland Hills, CA 91367.