2017 Pioneer of the Year
Bob White, Corpus Christi
(published August 2017)
Born in 1937, Bob White attended high school in Lockhart before attending the University of Texas for three years majoring in Radio-TV-Journalism. He also attended Port Arthur College to study radio engineering and secure his FCC Radio-Telephone First Class License.
He got his start in broadcasting in 1958 at WTAW-AM Bryan-College Station. From on-air,
to news and engineering – White did it all.
He left the station in 1960 to join legendary broadcaster Gordon McClendon at KILT Houston.
After only one year, White was promoted to program director, in addition to his daily on-air shift. Under his leadership, KILT became one of the most innovative and successful broadcast stations in the early days of Top 40 Radio.
After seven years in Houston, White moved to the Metroplex to change the old KCUL (a 50,000 watt daytime religious station) into what would become the first modern country radio station in Texas – KBUY-AM Fort Worth.
The station enjoyed great ratings and revenue success but White desired a new challenge and made the switch to Television.
He joined the staff of KIII-TV Corpus Christi in 1969, and was quickly promoted to local sales/operations manager and then general manager.
The station was owned by Michael McKinnon, 1971 Chairman of the TAB Board of Directors. Working together, they built KIII-TV into the number one news station in South Texas and one of the top ABC affiliates in the nation.
When Hurricane Celia hit Corpus Christi dead on in August 1970, KIII-TV led the way in news and service to the public. The station had the only film of the actual hurricane devastation. The City of Corpus Christi presented White with a Certificate of Commendation for Distinguished Service involving Hurricane Celia.
White helped put the “Domingo Peña Show” on the air and it is still airing every Sunday on KIII-TV. The show is one of the most popular TV programs in South Texas and greatly increased KIII-TV’s presence among the large Hispanic community in Corpus Christi.
The program, renamed “Domingo Live” following Domingo Peña’s death, is the longest running weekly Hispanic music/talk show in the nation. Peña’s show featured performances by a variety of Tejano musicians and served as a high-profile forum in which Peña and his guests discussed issues of concern to the Hispanic community.
Along with the many musicians who appeared on his program, the show brought in representatives from community groups (such as LULAC and the American GI Forum), as well national leaders like President Lyndon Johnson and Vice President Hubert Humphrey.
In 1977, White received the Southern Baptist Radio and Television Commission’s Abe Lincoln Award, presented annually to a broadcaster who has made significant contributions to the quality of life in America both as private citizens and professionals. White competed with 300 other television managers from throughout the United States.
McKinnon’s company purchased KBMT-TV Beaumont in 1978 and White was responsible for overseeing both stations.
During that time, White spent more than five years on the TAB Board of Directors and his fellow broadcasters elected him to serve as TAB Chairman in 1980.
He would stay with McKinnon Broadcasting until 1986 when he and others secured a construction permit to build a new, full-power UHF television station in the Bryan-College Station market. Unfortunately, the financing fell through and he returned to Corpus Christi – this time as the station manager for KRIS-TV, the market’s NBC affiliate.
Working with Pioneer Broadcaster T. Frank Smith, Jr., White managed the day-to-day operations of the station and handled national sales for two low-power stations Smith purchased – KAJA (Telemundo) and KDF (Fox).
He stayed with the stations for 10 years, before moving back to KIII-TV where he served as the vice president/general manager. His major challenge was to rebuild and revitalize the sales, news and promotion departments.
He also led the efforts to move the entire station from their 11,000 square foot studio to an 88,000 square foot building down the road. The move led to more station changes and White had to restructure almost every department at the station – from traffic and production to engineering and promotions.
White retired from the station in 2002 but continues to occasionally consult for local stations and help train local and national sales teams.
“I have known and worked with Bob for 25 years and have always found him dependable, efficient and unfailingly punctual. In fact, I have never worked with a person who gives as much attention to detail as he does,” said Anita Saenz-Carvalho, SVP-Entravision Corpus Christi.
“His skills do not end with office work. He also projects a warm, cheerful attitude to our clients. I have seen him resolve conflicts and handle other difficult situations with remarkable patience and admirable tact.
“In the community, Bob goes out of his way to help people in need by organizing charity drives. His grandson’s six-man football team had no place to play so Bob undertook the task of building a full size football field for Annapolis Christian Academy. He loves people, works hard, and always tries to lift the spirits of those around him, especially the newcomers to our business.”