In 1954, after 8 years in the Air Force, serving in both the United States and Japan, Jim Tolhurst came to New Orleans and began his broadcasting career at WDSU-TV. As news cameraman, and eventually Chief News Cameraman, he covered the biggest news stories of the era – integration stories of the late '50's and early '60's; the Klu Klux Klan in Mississippi; Martin Luther King; the integration of Old Miss; the Kennedy assasination and trial of Clay Shaw; and Hurricanes Audrey, Betsy, and Camille. During his twelve years at Channel 6, Tolhurst received numerous New Orleans Press Club Awards for his outstanding news coverages and features.
In 1966, Tolhurst accepted the position of Director of Photography at WWL-TV. A specialist in documentaries, Tolhurst headed the Department of Special Projects, the station's major documentary production unit. In both film and videotape, he shot, edited, scored, and supervised sound editing and all phases of production for documentaries for nineteen years.
Tolhurst's films have won national and international awards. He has been awarded three Peabody Awards, the highest award in television, for documentaries in Israel (1970), China (1972), and Greece (1982). He received a national Emmy in 1968 for a documentary on the education and rehabilitation of retarded children in New Orleans. In 1980 he received an Emmy nomination for a 28-part local news series on juvenile crime. He has been the recipient of top awards from the Dumont International Documentary competition; the Atlanta Film Festival; the Ohio State Film Festival; San Fransisco State College; and the National Association of Television Program Executives. On the local level, Tolhurst has been honored with numerous awards from Louisiana AP and UPI, and the New Orleans Press Club. He retired in June 1985.
In 1995, just weeks before his death, Tolhurst received what he felt was his most prestigious honor. He was the first television cameraman to be inducted into the Greater New Orleans Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
Tolhurst's documentaries have dealt with a wide range of topics, from fashion to taxation, from the people of Red China to plantations along the Mississippi. For almost two decades, the artistry of his cinematography brought us to distant lands, educated us in ancient times, and charmed us with our own local color.