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Broadcasters mourn loss of Joe Jerkins

Broadcast Pioneer Joe Jerkins, 1991 TAB Chairman, died Dec. 3 after a long battle with leukemia. He was 88.

“Joe Jerkins was one of Texas broadcasters’ most passionate advocates for Open Government,” said TAB President Oscar Rodriguez.

“Even in retirement he was a fierce defender of the state’s open meetings and public information laws, dedicating years of service in the Texas Association of Broadcasters’ efforts before state lawmakers.

“He had legions of admirers throughout Texas and Oklahoma, even among his competitors in the news business, for his dedication to community and belief in journalists’ responsibility to serve and protect the public interest.
“Joe was the best of the best.  His principled approach to the broadcast news business lives on in the hundreds of journalists and sales teams he mentored and nurtured throughout his career.”

A storied career

Joe Jerkins began his broadcasting career in 1942 as a radio announcer while he was still in high school.
After two years in the U.S. Navy in World War II and earning an electrical engineering degree at the University of Oklahoma, he became a newsman/announcer at KSWO Lawton.

He returned to his hometown in 1947 and worked as a newsman announcer at KOGY and later at KOMA radio, public information director for the Oklahoma Safety Council, promotions, production, program and operations manager at WKY-TV and assistant general manager for KTVY, Inc. in Oklahoma City.

In 1979, Jerkins moved to Austin as vice president and general manager of KVUE-TV. He became KVUE-TV’s president in 1987.

Jerkins founded Austin Crime Stoppers, headed United Way, the Salvation Army Advisory Board, Chamber of Commerce and Austin Community Foundation.

He served on the Texas Governor’s Task Force on Highway Safety and the Advisory Committee for Literacy Volunteers of America.

He chaired the ABC Affiliates Board of Governors and served on the Board of the Texas Broadcast Education Foundation and UT’s College of Communications Foundation Advisory Council.

Jerkins won the Television Programming Conference’s first lifetime achievement award. He also was named Executive of the Year by Executive Women International.

Mayor Lee Cooke proclaimed April 17, 1990, “Joe Jerkins Day of Appreciation” for Joe’s innumerable contributions to the city.

Jerkins officially retired from KVUE-TV on July 1, 1990.

The Texas Association of Broadcasters elected Joe Vice Chairman in 1990 and Chairman in 1991.

He helped build a fledgling state association into a lobby group recognized across the country.

TAB honored Joe with the President’s Special Award in 1993.

For years after retiring, Joe continued to work with TAB as a key member of the Task Force on Open Government – coming to the TAB office to review thousands of bills.

Jerkins is survived by his wife Shirley and their extended families.

Joe Jerkins

Caption: Joe Jerkins being interviewed for TAB's Pioneer Video Project in 2007. (View video)

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