Broadcasting

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Amazing Adventures of My Dog Sheppy, The

In a 1958 effort to promote economic development and tourism in Stone County, a group of local investors under the leadership of Harold M. Sherman filmed a thirty-minute television pilot titled, “The Amazing Adventures of My Dog Sheppy.” A poor script, inept casting, amateurish acting, and the on-camera killing of a bobcat combined to produce a show that could not be pitched to the national networks. The film is significant, however, for documenting Stone County before the Ozark Folk Center or Blanchard Springs Caverns opened to the public. The television pilot was the brainchild of Harold Sherman. This Michigan native was the author of more than sixty books, a motivational speaker, and a Hollywood script writer. In 1958, television shows …

Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN)

aka: AETN
The Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN), an agency of the State of Arkansas, is a non-commercial network designed to serve the people of Arkansas. It is affiliated with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). AETN’s mission includes offering lifelong learning opportunities to all Arkansans, supplying instructional programs to Arkansas schools, providing programming and services to improve and enhance the lives of Arkansas citizens, and illuminating the culture and heritage of Arkansas and the world. AETN began on June 4, 1954, with the creation of the Arkansas Educational Television Association. This citizens’ group was interested in a non-commercial alternative to the growing commercial television enterprise. In 1961, after several years of lobbying and discussions, the Arkansas General Assembly passed Act 198 to …

Babcock, Lucille (Lucy)

Lucille (Lucy) Babcock was a noted actress in theater and television who established the first community theater in Little Rock (Pulaski County). She also fostered the literary organizations her grandmother, writer Bernie Babcock, founded. Lucy Babcock was born Lucille Thornburg on September 30, 1921, to Frances Babcock Thornburg and John Thornburg. She had one sibling. While she was still an infant, her father deserted the family. Her grandmother had purchased Broadview, a wooded acreage that overlooked Little Rock, and the family moved into her barn-cum-house. At school, she was often in trouble for defending the underdog, recalling, “No one ever told me fighting was wrong.” Her circumstances and the area where she lived branded her as “white trash.” She attended …

Batson, Luenell

aka: Luenell
aka: Luenell Campbell
Luenell, who goes by only her first name professionally, is a comedian and a film and television actress known for her appearances in such movies as Borat: Cultural Learning of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) and Hotel Transylvania (2012). She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2015. Luenell was born Luenell Batson on March 12, 1959, in Tollette (Howard County), a historically black community. Her father was murdered while her mother was pregnant with her. As her mother already had seven other children, she was adopted by family members out of state, becoming Luenell Campbell and moving to California. She attended school in the community of Castro Valley in the San Francisco …

Bell, Lasker (Las)

Lasker Bell Sr., founder of the Las Bell Variety Show television and radio program, hosted the show from 1967 to 1985, ushering in a shift in entertainment options in southern Arkansas and the Arkansas-Louisiana-Mississippi region. Bell also made contributions in public affairs in Arkansas, holding civil appointments under Governors Dale Bumpers, David Pryor, and Bill Clinton. Las Bell was born in Homer, Louisiana, on May 21, 1928. He was the son of Union Bell and Bethena Randolph. Bell was raised by Frank and Irene Brooks, his maternal grandparents. Early in his life, Bell worked as a sharecropper alongside his grandparents. Bell only attended school through the eighth grade and, in 1944, relocated to Camden (Ouachita County) to find employment. He …

Bennett, Fran

Fran Bennett is an actress who has worked in theater, television, and films. She appeared on stage across the nation and in Europe, and she has played roles on television from the 1960s onward in such hit shows as Guiding Light, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Scandal. Bennett was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2005. Fran Bennett was born on August 14, 1937, in Malvern (Hot Spring County). Bennett earned a BS and an MA from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and went on to earn credit toward a PhD there before leaving the program. She studied voice under Kristin Linklater, a Scottish actress who relocated to the United States in 1963 to work …

Besser, Matthew Gregory (Matt)

Matthew Gregory Besser is an Arkansan comedian, actor, writer, director, and teacher best known as a founding member of the sketch-comedy group the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB). In his comedy, Besser draws upon his background as the child of a Jewish father and a Presbyterian mother from a fundamentalist family, exploring what this means for someone growing up in Arkansas. Matt Besser was born on September 22, 1967, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Sanford Michael Besser of Little Rock, who was an investment banker, and Diane Patricia Pettit Besser of Harrison (Boone County), a homemaker and volunteer in the Little Rock arts community. Besser is a first cousin twice removed of comic actor Joe Besser, who was a member …

Billingsley, ReShonda Tate

ReShonda Tate Billingsley is a journalist, public speaker, publisher, editor, ghostwriter, and producer; however, it is for her work as an award-winning national bestselling author that she is most known. Since publishing her first novel, My Brother’s Keeper (2001), through her own publishing company before Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books began publishing it, she has authored more than forty additional novels and contributed to several anthologies. Most of her novels have been published by Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books and have spanned several genres, including nonfiction and both teen and adult fiction. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2010. ReShonda Tate was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to Bruce Tate and Nancy Kilgore. She moved to Arkansas …

Bonner, Frank

aka: Frank Woodrow Boers Jr.
Best known for his role of sales manager Herb Tarlek on the television sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, which began in 1978, Frank Bonner is an actor and television director. He has also appeared in such popular shows as Saved by the Bell: The New Class, Just the Ten of Us, Murder, She Wrote, and Night Court. Frank Bonner was born Frank Woodrow Boers Jr. on February 28, 1942, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Frank Woodrow Boers, a saxophone player, and Grace Dobbins Boers, who had a singing career in the 1930s and 1940s. He has a sister, a brother, and a step-brother. He grew up Catholic, attending St. Edward’s and Our Lady of Good Counsel schools, before his family moved …

Brickell, Beth

Beth Brickell is an actor, producer, and writer with many stage and screen credits, and is especially known for her leading role on the television series Gentle Ben. She has also engaged in film production and investigative journalism, the latter relating to the 1957 disappearance of Maud Crawford. Beth Brickell was born on November 13, 1936, in Brinkley (Monroe County) and was raised in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) and Camden (Ouachita County). She graduated from Camden High School in 1954, and then attended Arkansas State Teachers College (today’s University of Central Arkansas) in Conway (Faulkner County) and the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where she majored in history and political science. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree …

Britt, Terri Utley Amos

Terri Britt, who was Terri Utley at the time, was named Miss Arkansas USA in 1982, going on to win the title of 1982’s Miss USA and compete in the Miss Universe pageant, in which she was a finalist. She remains the only Miss USA to come from Arkansas. When Elizabeth Ward, who was Miss Arkansas, was named Miss America in 1982, it became the only time both Miss America and Miss Universe titleholders were from the same state in the same year. After a career in the entertainment industry, Britt went on to become a successful motivational speaker and author. Terri Lea Utley was born on January 1, 1961. In her hometown of Cabot (Lonoke County), she was involved …

Brooks, John Doyle

John Doyle Brooks was a stuntman and actor whose career included appearances in some of the most renowned television shows of the 1950s and 1960s, including The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin and Naked City, as well as several movies and commercials. Doyle Brooks was born on December 10, 1923, in Bethesda (Independence County) to John Henry Brooks and Deliah Ann Queary Brooks. Brooks developed an interest in show business at an early age, especially in the cowboy/western genre. On his parents’ farm in Bethesda, he learned to ride, rope, break horses, and shoot, becoming an expert marksman and sharpshooter. In 1942, he married Bernice Sheffield of Batesville (Independence County), who shared his interest in the entertainment industry. Together, they …

Bumpass, Rodger

Rodger Bumpass is an actor and voice performer who was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and attended Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro (Craighead County). Along with numerous television and film roles, he has achieved fame as the voice of the character Squidward in the popular SpongeBob SquarePants film and TV series. Rodger Bumpass was born on November 20, 1951, in Little Rock to Carroll C. Bumpass and Virginia Cathey Bumpass, owners of Bumpass Cleaners and Dyers in Little Rock. He had two siblings, Leonard and Cathey (the latter of whom died at birth), and attended Little Rock Central High School, where he obtained his first experience in theater, primarily in the area of comedy. In high school, he …

Burns, Bob

aka: Robin Burn
Bob Burns was a well-known national radio and film personality during the 1930s and 1940s. He was known by a variety of titles that referenced his hillbilly origins, such as “The Arkansas Traveler” and “The Arkansas Philosopher.” Burns was a musician and an actor who wove tales of life in the Arkansas hills with his musical performances. He earned his nickname, “Bazooka,” from an instrument he invented and named as a young man in a plumbing shop in Van Buren (Crawford County). The instrument, which was a simple device made of spare gas fittings and a whiskey funnel, eventually lent its name to the World War II anti-tank weapon due to its similar looks and Burns’s popularity among the troops who …

Cates, Opal Taft (Opie)

Opie Cates was a popular bandleader, musician, and radio personality, known as one of the great clarinetists of the swing era (mid-1930s–mid-1940s). He was a familiar presence on radio in the 1940s, at one time appearing weekly on four different shows. By Cates’s own reckoning, his audience numbered over thirty-five million listeners. Some believe that the character of Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show was named after Opie Cates. Opal Taft Cates was born on October 10, 1909, in Clinton (Van Buren County). His parents, Abb Cates and Sarah Jacobs Cates, were farmers. Abb Cates died in 1914, Sarah Cates married Lee Andrew Reaves (or Reeves) in 1916. The blended family, which included several Reaves step-siblings and a younger …

Central Arkansas Radio Emergency Network (CAREN)

The Central Arkansas Radio Emergency Net (CAREN) is the oldest of several amateur radio clubs in the central Arkansas area. CAREN’s focus is on providing public service event support and emergency communications. To facilitate these services, CAREN operates VHF/UHF radio repeater sites throughout the central region of the state. Ham radio operators are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 97 (Amateur Radio Service), after passing an examination for one of several classes of license. The Amateur Radio Service has five main purposes: 1) providing emergency communications as a noncommercial service, 2) advancing the radio art, 3) advancing communications and technical skills, 4) expanding a pool of trained operators, …

Crisis at Central High

The book Crisis at Central High, based on the events surrounding the 1957 desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County), was a memoir written by school administrator Elizabeth Huckaby (1905–1999) and published in 1980. A prestigious television movie based on the book, also titled Crisis at Central High, was filmed at Central and starred Academy Award–winning actress Joanne Woodward. For her portrayal of Huckaby in the 1981 film, Woodward was nominated for both an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award. In September 1957, nine African-American students attempted to attend the all-white Central High. After they were prevented from entering by members of the state’s National Guard, the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division was ordered by President Dwight …

Davis, Gail

aka: Betty Jeanne Grayson
Gail Davis was an Arkansas-born actress who starred as the legendary sharpshooter in the groundbreaking TV Western series Annie Oakley, which ran from 1954 through 1956. She appeared in thirty-two feature films, was guest on a number of TV shows, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, and was a role model for young women. Gail Davis was born Betty Jeanne Grayson on October 5, 1925. Her mother was a homemaker and her father, W. B. Grayson, was a physician in McGehee (Desha County), which did not have a hospital, so her birth took place in Little Rock (Pulaski County). When her father became the state health officer, the …

Davis, Gregory A.

Gregory A. Davis is the founder of Davis Broadcasting, a regional media company that owns several radio stations in Columbus and Atlanta, Georgia; the stations range from urban contemporary and gospel to sports and Spanish-language formats. Davis serves as the president and CEO of Davis Broadcasting. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2016, the same year that marked the thirtieth anniversary of the company he founded. Gregory Davis was born in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in 1948. His mother was an educator at the local black school, and his father worked in a bakery before opening a shoeshine parlor. He attended twelve years of Catholic school, graduating from St. Anne’s Academy, where he was the …

Duggar Family

aka: 19 and Counting [Television Show]
aka: Counting On [Television Show]
The Duggars are an Arkansas family who became famous on the TLC network show 19 Kids and Counting. The family is known for its strict adherence to the Baptist faith and conservative values, which include restrictions against any birth control methods. However, the Duggars have been criticized by those who believe that such large families are not healthy for children and those who oppose their anti-contraceptive activism. On May 22, 2015, TLC announced that they were pulling all episodes of 19 Kids and Counting after Josh Duggar, the eldest child of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, admitted publicly that he had engaged in acts of child molestation as a teenager; the show was officially cancelled later that year. However, certain of the …

Eells, Paul Irving

Paul Irving Eells was a radio and television broadcaster for University of Arkansas (UA) Razorback sports from 1978 until his death in 2006. Throughout his career, he became an iconic “voice of the Razorbacks.” Paul Eells was born in Iowa City, Iowa, on September 24, 1935 to Norval and Shirley Eells. He grew up in Mechanicsville, Iowa, graduating from the University of Iowa (UI) in 1959. He had a baseball scholarship to UI but decided that sports broadcasting was his real interest. Soon, he was working in radio and television in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, beginning with coverage of high-school sports and then as a radio play-by-play announcer for UI basketball and football. From Iowa, Eells moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where …

Elder, Jim

aka: James Albert Elder
James Albert (Jim) Elder was a sports announcer and analyst whose dry style and encyclopedic knowledge of baseball, football, and golf amassed a huge following the last thirty-five years of the twentieth century. Elder was sports director for KARN (earlier KARK) radio for most of those years, and he did the play-by-play broadcasts of the Arkansas Travelers professional baseball team for thirty-three years. Jim Elder was born on July 25, 1924, in Altoona, Pennsylvania, to Albert Elder, a construction worker, and Dorothy Moore Elder, who, following a divorce, worked at a bank to support her only child and her songwriting. When Elder was small, they moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he became an ardent fan of the Philadelphia Athletics major …

Ernest Green Story, The

The Ernest Green Story is a made-for-television movie that premiered on cable TV’s Disney Channel in 1993. It tells the true story of Ernest Gideon Green (1941–), who was one of a group of African-American students (dubbed the Little Rock Nine) who were the first black students to attend Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County). The movie details the violence and victories of Green’s senior year in 1957–58. In May 1958, Green became the first black student to graduate from Central. The promotional poster for the film read: “1958. Because of his courage, Central High School will never be the same.” The film runs for 101 minutes and was developed by executive producer Carol Ann Abrams. Much of …

Evans, Dale

aka: Frances Octavia Smith
Dale Evans was an actress, author, and songwriter who was raised in Osceola (Mississippi County), where she attended school for the first time and met her first husband. She rose to fame as America’s “Queen of the West” (sometimes called “Queen of the Cowgirls”) alongside her fourth husband, Roy Rogers (“King of the Cowboys”). She starred in movies, television shows, and evangelical Christian programs. Evans wrote twenty-eight inspirational books and composed many songs, including the popular song of faith, “The Bible Tells Me So,” as well as the iconic American standard, “Happy Trails.” Dale Evans was born in her grandparents’ home at Uvalde, Texas, though her family lived in Italy, Texas. Her father, Walter Smith, was a middle-class farmer who …

Evening Shade

Evening Shade was a television situation comedy series about a contemporary Arkansas town. It was shown on CBS from 1990 to 1994 and was produced by Arkansan Harry Thomason and his wife, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason. Taking place in the rural town of Evening Shade (Sharp County), it was the first network television series set in Arkansas. The show, which starred Burt Reynolds, was filmed partially in Arkansas and represented the state in a positive manner. When seeking suggestions about a location and title for the show, it is said that the winning idea came from the Thomasons’ friend Hillary Clinton. Created by Bloodworth-Thomason, who is from Missouri, the program was produced by Mozark Productions, of which she and her husband were …

Flippen, Jay C.

Jay C. Flippen was a versatile entertainer whose career spanned more than six decades and multiple show business genres, from minstrelsy to motion pictures. Flippen became an iconic Hollywood character actor during the 1950s and 1960s. Long before that, he had established himself as a popular stage and radio performer whom Milton Berle eulogized as “one of the greatest standup comedians I ever saw.” J. C. Flippen was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on March 6, 1899. He may have been named for his father, whose name was either Jay Charles or John Constantine. However, Flippen reminisced that his parents could not decide on a name and took to calling him by the initials “J. C.” His mother was Emma …

Froug, William (Bill)

Emmy Award–winning Bill Froug was a writer, producer, author, educator, and television executive whose career in radio and television had a significant impact upon the entertainment industry. Film critic Roger Ebert once said of Froug, “He is not merely as sharp as a tack; he is the standard by which they sharpen tacks.” William (Bill) Froug was born in Brooklyn, New York, on May 26, 1922. He was raised by adoptive parents Rita and Bill Froug in Little Rock (Pulaski County), residing first in Hillcrest and later in the Quapaw Quarter. Froug attended Rightsell Elementary School, East Side Jr. High, and Little Rock Senior High School (now Central High). Summer breaks were often filled with Arkansas Travelers baseball games and …

Ghostley, Alice Margaret

Alice Ghostley was a film, stage, and television actress who was often described as looking “sweetly befuddled.” She most often played comedic roles, though she won Broadway’s Tony Award as best featured actress for her serious portrayal in the 1964 drama The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window. Ghostley’s distinctive face and quavering voice became known to millions for her comedic performance as a good witch/housekeeper in the television sitcom Bewitched in the 1960s and 1970s. From 1986 to 1993, she won new fans for her performance as eccentric family friend Bernice Clifton in the television series Designing Women, created by Arkansan Harry Thomason and his wife, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason. Alice Margaret Ghostley was born in Eve, Missouri, on August 14, 1923, …

Goff, “Tuffy”

aka: Findley Norris Goff
Findley Norris Goff and his partner, Chet Lauck, created Lum and Abner, a radio program based on the people of Pine Ridge (Montgomery County). It was one of the longest running and most popular programs ever on radio, heard daily across the country from 1931 to 1955 and broadcast on Armed Forces Radio during World War II. The Pine Ridge partners also successfully transferred their Lum and Abner characters to movies. Norris Goff was born on May 30, 1906, to Rome and Dora Goff in Cove (Polk County). The family moved to Mena (Polk County) by 1911, where Rome Goff expanded his wholesale general merchandise warehouse business that served stores in several surrounding counties. Another prominent Mena family was the …

Gracen, Elizabeth Ward

aka: Grace Elizabeth Ward
Grace Elizabeth Ward was the 1981 Miss Arkansas and 1982 Miss America. When she began her acting career in 1987, she changed her name to “Elizabeth Ward Gracen,” because another Elizabeth Ward was already in the Screen Actors Guild. In 1992, she became the first former Miss America to appear on the cover of Playboy magazine and in a nude pictorial feature. Grace Elizabeth Ward was born on April 3, 1961, in Ozark (Franklin County) to Jimmy and Patricia Ward. Ward’s father was a supervisor at various poultry factories. Her mother was a registered nurse. She has a younger brother, Van Thomas Ward, and younger sister, Mary Margaret Ward. Ward graduated from Russellville High School in Russellville (Pope County) in …

Graham, Fred

Journalist Fred Graham was the dean of television news Supreme Court reporting in the 1970s and into the 1980s. Building upon his tenure as the U.S. Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times, and as law correspondent for CBS News, Graham pioneered television coverage of the nation’s highest court. Later, he became involved in the launch of cable television’s Court TV, where he continued to report and offer analysis of the American legal system and legal issues in the United States. Fred Graham was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on October 6, 1931, to Otis and Lois Graham. His family included an older sister and two younger brothers. He received his early education in Texarkana (Miller County) before …

Greer, Stuart

Stuart Greer is a popular character actor from El Dorado (Union County) with more than forty film and television credits to his name. His career began in 1994; in 2016, he suffered a stroke at the age of fifty-six. His first role was in a single episode of the British miniseries Crocodile Shoes; in 2016, he played the character Roman in AMC’s hit horror series The Walking Dead. Greer’s notable movies include I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), The Reaping (2007) with Hillary Swank, Homefront (2013) with Jason Statham, and American Ultra (2015). Stuart Greer was born on December 2, 1959, in El Dorado, and he lived there until he was eight years old. Greer graduated from Benton …

Hamilton, George Stevens

George Stevens Hamilton is an American film, stage, and television actor widely known for his dashing good looks, jet-setting image, and trademark tan. Hamilton has extensive film and television credits spanning nearly six decades. Born on August 12, 1939, in Memphis, Tennessee, and raised in Blytheville (Mississippi County), George Hamilton is the son of touring bandleader George William “Spike” Hamilton and Southern socialite Ann Stevens of Blytheville. Hamilton’s early years were spent in Blytheville, where his mother’s parents also resided. In addition to an older brother from his mother’s previous marriage, Hamilton also had a younger brother. According to his memoir, the boys lived an idyllic life in small-town Blytheville and enjoyed a close relationship with their grandparents. In 1944, …

Handy, Delores

Delores Handy became an award-winning African-American journalist, reporter, and news anchor. In a career spanning over four decades, Handy won four Emmy awards for her television work in Washington DC and Boston, Massachusetts. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2009. Delores Handy was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on April 7, 1947, to the Reverend George G. Handy Sr. and his first wife. She is the oldest of fourteen children—nine girls and five boys. George Handy Sr. pastored a Baptist church in North Little Rock (Pulaski County). Handy attended Horace Mann High School, with her interests including flag football and track and field. She graduated in 1965 and began college in the fall at …

Harper, Tess

aka: Tessie Jean Washam
A Golden Globe and Academy Award nominee, Tess Harper has become a consummate actress known for portraying Southern women of grace and dignity. She is best known for roles in Tender Mercies and Silkwood. Tess Harper was born Tessie Jean Washam on August 15, 1950, in Mammoth Spring (Fulton County). She attended Arkansas State University–Beebe (ASU–Beebe), where she performed in several plays, as well as Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University) in Springfield, where she graduated with a degree in education. She married Ken Harper in 1971; the couple divorced in 1976. In the late 1960s, Harper began acting in theater productions and made appearances in theme parks, dinner theater, children’s theater, and commercials. Her first feature film …

Hartman, Ena

Ena Hartman is an unsung trailblazer of Hollywood whose smaller roles in 1960s media productions helped create a path for African Americans in film and television. African-American actresses working in the 1970s benefited from the trail Hartman helped blaze. Ena Hartman was born on April 1, 1935, in Moscow (Jefferson County). The daughter of sharecroppers, she was raised by her grandparents. At age thirteen, she moved to Buffalo, New York, to live with her mother. She dropped out of high school to open a restaurant, handling the duties of cook and waitress as she tried to earn money to go to New York City to become a model. She was discovered by a photographer in the lobby of a modeling …

Holt, Georgia

aka: Jackie Jean Crouch
Actress and singer Georgia Holt had small parts in the movies and on television, but she is best known as the mother of pop superstar Cher and actress Georganne LaPiere, as well as being the grandmother of musician Elijah Blue Allman and LGBT rights advocate Chaz Bono. Georgia Holt was born Jackie Jean Crouch on June 9, 1926, in Kensett (White County). She was born in poverty; her father, the teenage Roy Malloy Crouch, was a baker, and her mother, Lynda Inez Gulley, was reportedly thirteen years old at the time she gave birth. Crouch would later have a younger brother, Mickey. Her father taught her how to sing and play guitar during her early childhood. After her parents separated, …

Humbard, Alpha Rex Emmanuel

Alpha Rex Emmanuel Humbard was a traveling evangelist from Arkansas who became a well-known gospel singer, pastor, and pioneer in Christian television. Born on August 13, 1919, in Little Rock (Pulaski County), Rex Humbard was one of six children of Pentecostal evangelists Alpha and Martha (Childers) Humbard. In the summer of 1932, young Humbard watched a Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus tent fill with crowds in Hot Springs (Garland County). Although he would not attend such “worldly” diversions, he decided that he wanted to attract crowds like that to share the gospel. At age thirteen, he began broadcasting on KTHS radio in Hot Springs by singing gospel songs and inviting listeners to come hear his father preach at …

Johnson, Billy Farrel (Bill)

Billy Farrel Johnson of Conway (Faulkner County) is a well-known banker, broadcaster, and civic leader in Faulkner County. He has served as president of three financial institutions, broadcast athletic events on the radio since 1961, served as a justice of the peace, and sat on numerous local and state boards. Johnson is also a development associate for the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) athletic department and raises money for the Purple Circle Club, the primary source of outside funding for UCA athletics. Bill F. Johnson was born on May 15, 1939, in Conway, one of two children of Hulon Johnson and Norma Warbritton Johnson. Johnson attended Conway public schools from elementary through high school and graduated in 1957. He then …

Johnson, Kenneth Culver (Kenny)

Kenneth (Kenny) Culver Johnson Jr. is a television writer, producer, and director. He is the creator of numerous Emmy-winning projects includingThe Bionic Woman, The Incredible Hulk, the original miniseries V, and Alien Nation. Kenny Johnson was born on October 26, 1942, in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) to Kenneth Culver Johnson Sr. and Helene Maye Brown Johnson. His father was an electrical engineer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who helped build the Pine Bluff Arsenal. Johnson and his family left Pine Bluff after his father was transferred to the Pentagon near the end of World War II, and he was raised in Washington DC. His parents divorced in 1946, and his father moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County). Johnson …

KAAY

KAAY (AM 1090) has been one of Arkansas’s most influential radio stations since it came into being on September 3, 1962. The station incorporated a successful mixed format of music, religion, farm reports, and news that was innovative for the time. Shortly after it had come on the air, KAAY was also utilized by the U.S. government to broadcast propaganda to Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1966, KAAY also successfully brought a new musical format to mid-America on the program Beaker Street. KAAY was born out of KTHS, the state’s first 50,000-watt AM broadcast station. KTHS (which stood for “Kum To Hot Springs”) officially came on the air in 1924 and was granted its new increased-power operating privileges …

KABF

Little Rock’s KABF radio station (FM 88.3) in Little Rock (Pulaski County) began broadcasting an eclectic mix of music, news, and community driven content in 1984. “The Voice of the People” has exposed Arkansans to genres rarely heard on commercial radio, given local artists radio airplay, and provided organizations and citizens with a means to reach a wide audience with their messages. The broadcast signal carries to most of Arkansas’s seventy-five counties, as well as some neighboring states, and reaches an estimated 50,000 listeners every week. KABF is one of only twelve non-commercial radio stations in the United States with the maximum allowed signal of 100,000 watts. KABF was conceived as a project of Association of Community Organizations for Reform …

KATV Tower

The KATV tower was a 2,000-foot-tall (609.6 meters) television antenna that stood just north of Redfield (Jefferson County), about one-quarter mile east of Interstate 530. Before its collapse in 2008, the tower ranked among the tallest manmade structures in the world and stood as a prominent local landmark, marking the approximate halfway point for drivers traveling between Little Rock (Pulaski County) and Pine Bluff (Jefferson County). Upon its completion on May 1, 1967, the KATV tower was the third-tallest manmade structure in the world, surpassed only by the KVLY-TV and KXJB-TV television masts in North Dakota. By 2008, it shared the rank of fifth-tallest manmade structure in the world, as it was the first of many other 2,000-foot-tall masts that …

KBTA

KBTA-AM is a radio station in Batesville (Independence County) broadcasting a sports radio format. The station is owned by WRD Entertainment and features programming from ABC Radio and CBS Sports Radio. KBTA (1340 AM) was Batesville’s first radio station. Located on the banks of the White River near Riverside Park, the station was launched as a joint venture by Batesville mayor Jared Trevathan, Jim F. Higginbottom of Oklahoma Tire and Supply, and Albert West of Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L). The first broadcast took place on June 30, 1950, and was a gala event. Higginbottom, who was president and general manager of the station, eventually bought out his two partners to become sole owner of the station. He received the …

King Biscuit Time

In November 1941, KFFA, 1360 AM, the first local radio station in Helena (Phillips County), went on the air. Soon after its first broadcast, blues musicians Robert Lockwood Jr. and Sonny Boy Williamson approached owner Sam Anderson with a proposal to air a local blues radio show. Anderson liked the idea, but he knew the show would have to have a sponsor. He directed Lockwood and Williamson to Max Moore, the owner of Interstate Grocery Company, as a possible sponsor. Moore, who recognized the possibilities of marketing to African Americans, agreed to sponsor the show if the musicians would endorse his product. With a corporate sponsor, the King Biscuit Time radio program went on the air on November 21, 1941. …

KOKY

Called the “Greater Little Rock Ebony Station” at its inception in 1956, KOKY was the first radio station in Arkansas to be staffed by African Americans and to feature programming directed toward a black audience. Founded in Little Rock (Pulaski County), the station has featured on-air talent like Leo “Jocko” Carter and Al Bell. John M. McLendon was a thirty-three-year-old broadcaster from Jackson, Mississippi, who owned three radio stations in Mississippi, including WOKJ in Jackson; like KOKY, WOKJ’s target audience was African Americans. During the summer of 1956, McLendon was granted a license by the Federal Communications Commission to operate a station in Little Rock called “Ebony Radio” until call letters could be established. At 9:00 a.m., October 8, 1956, …

KTHS

KTHS, which became KAAY in 1962, is thought to be Arkansas’s third-oldest continuously licensed broadcast radio station. The station survived the turbulent years of broadcasting’s infancy, government regulations, and changes in location and frequencies to become Arkansas’s first 50,000-watt clear-channel station. KTHS was also known for its role in launching the career of the comedy team Lum and Abner. Radio station KTHS was built in 1924 on the upper floor of the new Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs (Garland County). Facilities included studios and ballrooms wired for broadcast. Two steel towers were installed on the roof between the hotel building’s towers, one 150 feet tall, the other 125 feet, to support the transmitting antenna. Test broadcasts began on December 11, …

KUAF

KUAF began broadcasting as a ten-watt station in January 1973 from a renovated clapboard house on Duncan Street in Fayetteville (Washington County). Owned by the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville, the station began as a student-run operation with a staff of twenty-five students and a faculty advisor, Dennis O’Neal, from the Department of Journalism. The station served as a training ground for students. Planning for the station began the year before its debut. The initial finances were provided by the Associated Student Government and Student Services Allocations. A transmitter was installed on the top of Yocum Hall, and a survey was conducted during registration in fall 1972 to determine what type of music the students most preferred. The most …

KUOA

Radio station KUOA started at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and later belonged to John Brown University (JBU) in Siloam Springs (Benton County). These schools used the station to broadcast programs such as educational talks, religious programs, music, local information, and sports. In the twenty-first century, KUOA is an all-sports station nicknamed “Hog Sportsradio.” It is generally considered to be the oldest radio station in Arkansas that is still broadcasting. According to Ray Poindexter in his book Arkansas Airwaves, the UA Department of Engineering began experiments with a wireless telegraph in 1897 and had a wireless station in 1916 licensed with the call letters 5YM. A license for the school’s first commercial AM radio station, KFMQ, …

KWEM

The landscape of American music was on the brink of change when KWEM began its first broadcast on February 23, 1947. The KXLR-Razorback Network brought its new station and a unique listening experience to West Memphis (Crittenden County), featuring local musicians who played live on the air. The success of live broadcasts on KFFA in nearby Helena (Phillips County) inspired KWEM to incorporate a “pay-to-play” revenue model, in which the opportunity to perform live on its daytime broadcasts was available to anyone able to secure a sponsor or pay a $15 fee. For emerging artists, appearances on KWEM provided exposure within the vibrant West Memphis music scene and ignited the rise to greatness for numerous musical legends, including Ike Turner, …