Rising star in the Sunshine State

Spring 2017 Edition

Bob Kealing researches the rise of young Elvis Presley in Florida 

Bob Kealing

Bob Kealing

After completing his third book set in the 1950s, “Tupperware Unsealed: Brownie Wise, Earl Tupper, and the Home Party Pioneers,” 1987 J-School graduate and award-winning journalist Bob Kealing picked up his laptop, researched Florida’s history, and found himself in the '50s once again with the concept for his next book: “Elvis Ignited: The Rise of an Icon in Florida.”

“Elvis is universal. And for a lot of people, especially the younger people, a lot of them see him only in his sort of jumpsuit, rhinestone phase where he’s almost become sort of a sad caricature,” Kealing said. “This is the story of the real Elvis, the young and hungry performer, coming into his own.”

Not only was it his breakout state in 1956, but the King played more live shows in Florida than any other state, according to Kealing’s research. The book took six years to complete and is filled with stories from various individuals who had opened for Elvis on tour, had romantic relationships with him or had even played alongside him.

Kealing said he enjoys leveraging his research to make under-recognized or even unrecognized historical landmarks known, such as the Kerouac House, which, thanks to Kealing, is now a national historic landmark.

“It shows that if you harness your research, you can harness history for something new for generations, and it helps tell people’s stories,” Kealing said.

In addition to writing four books, Kealing has worked for an NBC affiliate in Orlando for the last 25 years. He has won multiple awards, including an Emmy for his coverage of the Orlando nightclub shooting, and has covered iconic cases such as the Casey Anthony trial. Kealing said his time spent as a Jayhawk was the launch pad for his career.

“I may have left the Hill 30 years ago, but it never left me,” Kealing said.

— Anissa Fritz is a senior from Dallas studying news and information.