Harold M. Shaw, 74, who as "Ranger Hal" hosted his own immensely popular and critically acclaimed children's program on WTOP-TV (Channel 9) for 13 years, died of cancer Aug. 18 at his home in Herndon.
Mr. Shaw, a former stage actor and radio and television announcer, performed briefly on another local television program, the "Pick Temple Show," before selling the Channel 9 brass on hosting his own program, in which he played a friendly forest ranger.
The hour-long "Ranger Hal Show" made its debut at 8:45 a.m. on Oct. 19, 1957. It ran Monday through Friday on its way to becoming a local broadcast institution. On the show, Ranger Hal introduced cartoons, spoke about the importance of good manners, made the odd drawing and held contests for the children.
In November 1957, a Washington Post radio and television critic called Ranger Hal "the happiest surprise of the new television season." He went on intimate that broadcast executives in Channel 9 were more than a little pleasantly surprised at the show's success. He also wrote that in the show's first month on the air, it received more than 36,000 cards and letters from its new devoted fans.
In the course of its run, the show received three Emmys for "most outstanding children's program (pre-teen)." Mr. Shaw made countless public appearances promoting forest conservation, children's safety and what are now called family values. He also started a children's summer camp that offered horseback riding, swimming and other outdoors activities as well as arts and crafts.
In 1970, the show ended and Mr. Shaw became a sales representative with WTOP radio and television. He retired in 1977 after suffering an aneurysm. In later years, he was a member of Dranesville United Methodist Church, took classes at Northern Virginia Community College and made the odd appearance as Ranger Hal before people who had not forgotten the friendly forest ranger.
Mr. Shaw was a New Jersey native and served as an Army lieutenant in World War II. As a youth, he was offered an acting contract by MGM but opted for college. He graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in dramatic arts. His fellow students included Andy Griffith.
Mr. Shaw then appeared in summer stock theater. He eventually toured more than a dozen states with a Barter Theater Company that included such actors as Ernest Borgnine.
Mr. Shaw ended up in New York, where he auditioned for parts in Broadway shows, worked as an NBC page, took announcing classes and studied acting, voice and dance at the American Theatre Wing. Finally, he worked as an announcer at WABI-TV in Bangor, Maine, before coming to Washington in 1956. He spent the next year as a staff announcer with WRC-TV.
His first wife, Rosemary, died in 1983. Survivors include his wife, the former Joan Shea, whom he married in 1985 and who lives in Herndon; three children by his first marriage, Bruce Shaw of Hillsborough, N.C., Mark Shaw of Stafford and Wendy Blanks of Camden, S.C.; a stepson, Julian de Bullet of Sterling; four grandchildren; and two stepgrandchildren.