Lady Bird Johnson & Frank Ford
1964 at the White House
Halloween time at the White House was celebrated by the nation's First Lady, Claudia Taylor (Lady Bird) Johnson. On hand from WCAU Radio was Broadcast Pioneers member Frank Ford.
With Lady Bird's inheritance from her father's business, the Johnsons purchased a radio station, KTBC (1150 on AM that that time) in Austin, Texas during January of 1943 for $17,500. Mrs. Johnson held a Bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Texas.
After Congressman Lyndon Johnson's wife took over the station, they quickly went to a new (and better) frequency at 590 on AM. They also went from being a daytimer to a full-time station.
KTBC hired a young guy to be News Editor, his name was Bill Moyers. Moyers would later serve (1963 to 1967) as Special Assistant to President Lyndon Johnson, including two years as LBJ's Press Secretary.
During the forties, KTBC purchased an apartment building, with the Johnsons (who spent most of their time in Washington) maintaining the upstairs apartment. In the South Wing of the complex was an apartment that was the home of KTBC employees John and Nellie Connally. John was manager of the station and Nellie sold advertising.
Then Congressman Johnson help secure an FCC license for another AM station in Austin. This outlet was owned by 10 World War II veterans including Connally who was the largest stockholder. While this may seem strange at first (that he would help an opposition station get on the air), Johnson said that there was enough room (and profits) for both.
All ten of the vets were close political allies of the Johnson family and KVET (1300 on AM) would support future LBJ campaigns. KVET initially broadcast from the KTBC tower (both stations shared the same Chief Engineer) and it became an issue in Congressman Johnson's re-election campaign of 1946. Connally was LBJ's campaign manager for that year. Connally would manage KVET for three years and then joined the Johnson staff as an aide when Lyndon became a senator (Connally ran that campaign, too).
John Connally would later become Governor of Texas. Connally traveled with President John F. Kennedy on that fateful day of November 22, 1963 when both would be shot and only Connally would survive. That assassination elevated Connally's old boss, LBJ to the Presidency.
KTBC in 1948 was a 5,000 watt day, 1,000 watt night AM station. It was owned by the Texas Broadcasting Corporation with its officers listed as:
Claudia T. Johnson, President
J.C. "Jesse" Kellam, VP, GM and Program Director
Willard Deason, Assistant GM & Commercial Manager
Harvey O. Payne, Promotion Manager
Frank W. Yeagley, Chief Engineer
KVET in 1948 was a 1,000 watt full-time station, owned by the Austin Broadcasting Company with its officers listed as:
John B. Connally, President and General Manager
J.J. Pickle, Commercial Manager
Fred M. Caldwell, Program Director
Frank W, Yeagley, Chief Engineer
Willard Deason, Assistant GM of the Johnson broadcast property was a former Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. In 1949, Richard Pryor became Program Director. Pryor, while an area comedian, was no relation to African-American comedian Richard Pryor who was well known in the seventies. Also in 1949 at KVET, H. Welborn Dunlop became Connally's assistant, basically replacing Pickle.
In 1950, Ben Hearn became Chief Engineer for KTBC and Alfred Scharath for KVET. In that same year, Willard Deason, Assistant General Manager of KTBC became General Manager of KVET. Connally was still listed as President. Also in that year, Charles L. Howell became Commercial Manager and Dave Smith became PD and Promotion Manager for KVET.
In the fifties, KTBC-FM and KTBC-TV came on the air. By 1973, KTBC was still owned by Texas Broadcasting and the Johnson family. J.C. Kellam was President and GM and Charles Howell was General Sales Manager (he was Commercial Manager for KVET), Richard Pryor was still PD. On July 15, 1973, KTBC AM & FM became KLBJ and KLBJ-FM. At that same time, KTBC-TV was sold to Times-Mirror. The TV station kept its call letters of KTBC-TV. The radio stations (part of a six station Johnson group) were sold in 2003.
When LBJ passed away in 1973, Jake Pickle, former aide to LBJ and former co-owner of KVET gave the eulogy for the former President.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Photo originally donated by Broadcast Pioneers member Frank Ford
Researched, compiled and written by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
© 2005, All Rights Reserved
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