Fifty years ago, KPBS took the airways on
September 12, 1960. And a small group of pioneers in broadcasting, in public broadcasting, filled
with energy, excitement, creativity, were the ones who launched KPBS. Those individuals
we’re honoring as the charter members of the KPBS Hall of Fame are: Ken Jones, John
Witherspoon, Tom McMantis, Paul Marshall, and Paul Stein.
At the very beginning of kpbs television the man who really is responsible for starting
it, I was the first general manager, but the guy who really got it going was professor
Ken Jones here at San Diego state. Ken put the ideas together put some of the money together
from various sources including the university and including the school system and invited
me to be general manager and I was needless to say delighted to accept.
I’m offly glad that I was around, and the guy that was first in line. I can remember
when I first came in and saw what I had to work with, what amounted to a closet in the
back of a little theater, oh boy, so the development has been fun and I’m terrible terribly proud
of that. Ken really was the father of KPBS. It was
his fiery determination, his vision, and his commitment to get KEBS off the ground. And
he pushed, and he pushed, and he pushed- and it wasn’t easy, but on September 12, 1960
Ken reached his dream and got KEBS off the ground.
One of the really memorable events of the very early days of kpbs right after television
came on the air, was that a number of us were invited to come to the white house for the
signing of the public broadcasting act by president Johnson in 1967. Before that we
had kind of a loose organization of stations and programs that were zipped around by various
means but we didn’t really have proper programming networks and we didn’t have a national organization
to make the whole thing go. And the corporation for public broadcasting was the way to make
that happen and they in turn of course created national public radio and the public broadcasting
service, and I was just delighted to shake hands with president Johnson at the time he
signed the public broadcasting act. Tom McMantis worked for John Witherspoon,
but in reality, Tom was KPBS’ first full time employee. And running the radio station,
Tom created a program schedule that included jazz music, folk music, news, classical music,
Spanish language programming, and a group of community producers that he cultivated
to produce programs and segments about the place we call home.
Paul Marshall was KPBS’ first Director of Production, and launched the KPBS Documentary
Film Unit. He really transformed us into an organization
beyond news and information by showcasing the arts and cultural organizations of our
community. And he ended up being KPBS’ most prolific producer, receiving 12 Emmys for
his incredible work. He was an artist in his own way and his easel was the television screen.
It’s been a great 25 years for me working at kbps prior to retiring, and well I’m
particularly proud of the club date series. I did over 60 of these half hour club date
programs and they played nationally they were distributed to about 2 300 public TV stations,
then beyond that it got into international distribution, so it was quite well known,
right now the library of congress has jazz archives and they contacted us and were interested
in having club date in their jazz archives and they are there now. So I feel good about
that that we preserved them. Paul Stein deserves to be in the KPBS Hall
of Fame because it was under his leadership that brought us the state-of-the-art telecommunications
center that we now call home. But he also made a very, very important decision in 1991,
when we changed our radio station to a mixed format to focus on just on news and information.
And we’ve never looked back because we’re now a news based organization and it was his
decision that started us going in that direction. Being in the kpbs hall of fame is to me is
a great honor, more than I can even talk about, and while I get the honor I can only say thank
you to all of the people with whom I worked. It was a wonderful time to be here, I think
anytime that you can be in on the beginning of something and then watch it as it develops
and grows, it’s the best time to be there in many ways.