2014 Hall of Fame Inductees
Jack Carney 1932 – 1984
Jack Carney was born in Los Angeles on August 23, 1932. He attended UCLA, where he studied law until, out of curiosity, he took radio classes, eventually abandoning law for a career in radio.
Carney’s radio career began in New Mexico in 1951. He moved through several small market stations in the southwest before becoming well known as a rock n’ roll DJ serving up hits to teenagers in Phoenix, Milwaukee, Atlanta and Boston.
Carney arrived in St. Louis in 1958 as a rock n’ roll DJ on WIL. Six weeks after he joined the staff, his sense of humor and bizarre stunts brought WIL from #7 to #1 in St. Louis. Carney invented a character named Pookie Snackenberg, who became a hero with St. Louis teens. Carney once asked his listeners to pull the tuning knobs off their parents’ home and car radios so the dial couldn’t be moved from WIL.
Carney’s ratings success at WIL brought about a job offer from WABC and he was off to New York City in 1960. This proved to be a bad move for him. He only stayed a few months in New York and then left for a stint of West Coast radio jobs.
Carney returned to St. Louis in 1971, taking over the KMOX morning spot from Jack Buck. He was an instant success. The Jack Carney Show ran from 9 am to noon and made Carney a legend as a St. Louis entertainer and live-commercial pitch man. St. Louis Post-Dispatch broadcast critic Erik Mink said, “The effectiveness of Carney’s commercials was due to his mastery at weaving them into the fabric of his program. The two elements were so intimately intertwined that often it was impossible to tell where the program stopped and the commercial began.”
During his KMOX years, virtually every celebrity that passed through St. Louis stopped by to say hello to Jack Carney. He completely dominated morning radio and became a fixture in the St. Louis community for over 13 years.
Tragically, Carney died of a sudden heart attack at age 52 on November 27, 1984. He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2001 and is also a member of the St. Louis Radio Hall of Fame.
Andrew “Skip” Carter 1919 – 1989
Andrew “Skip” Carter was born in 1919 in Savannah, Georgia, where he built his first radio while still in high school and worked as a radio engineer. After serving in the Army from 1940-1945, Carter studied physics at Georgia State for three years, went to the RCA School for Electronics and then to New York University. He earned his First Class broadcast license in 1947.
Carter’s goal was to own and operate his own radio station playing R&B and soul music, but his efforts were thwarted by the racial attitudes of the times. In August of 1948, Carter wrote a letter to Broadcast Magazine chronicling the difficulties he experienced in the radio industry. The letter caught the attention of then Kansas Governor Alf Landon, who owned four radio stations. Landon hired Carter to run one of his stations, KCLO in Leavenworth, Kansas.
Carter turned the station around. Landon subsequently helped Carter get his FCC license in August 1949, making Carter only the second African American to receive one. Then in 1950, Carter, again with the support of Landon as owner, launched KPRS in Kansas City, the first African American station west of the Mississippi, playing original songs by African American artists like Ray Charles and James Brown. The “PRS” in the call letters stand for People’s Radio Station.
KPRS-AM 1590 opened its first studio at 12th and Walnut. In 1952, Carter and business partner Edward Pate purchased KPRS for $40,000 from the Johnson County Broadcasting Corporation making KPRS the first African American owned radio station west of the Mississippi.
In 1959, Carter met the woman who would be by his side the rest of his life and help him build his successful radio company. Mildred and Andrew Carter married in 1960. Mildred convinced Andrew to try FM for the clarity and strength of its signal. In 1963, Andrew received his FM license and was granted a 100,000-watt FM facility. KPRS moved to 103.3 on the FM dial with a 24-hour format that was simulcast with KPRS-AM on 1590.
The Carters completely controlled the interests in both stations by 1969. In 1971, KPRS-AM changed its call letters to KPRT-AM and began programming Urban Gospel music 24 hours a day on 1590 AM.
In order to ensure his stations would remain a family-run business, Carter named his grandson, Michael president of KPRS Broadcasting Corporation in 1987. KPRS has the historical significance of being the oldest continually African American family-owned radio station in the United States. Under Michael Carter’s leadership, it continues a mission of community service that his grandfather established over 60 years ago.
In January of 1989, radio pioneer Andrew “Skip” Carter died at his home in Florida.
In 1993, KPRS Broadcasting Corporation moved into new offices in the Andrew “Skip” Carter building and was renamed the Carter Broadcast Group, Inc. to honor and preserve the legacy of its great founder. The broadcast industry also recognized Carter’s life-long achievements when he was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1996.
Norma Champion is best known as “Aunt Norma” to most long-time residents of the Ozarks. From 1957 to 1986, Champion was the writer, producer and host of The Children’s Hour, a top-rated commercial television program on KYTV in Springfield.
Champion accidentally auditioned for the show and soon became a household name as she entertained and mentored thousands of children through the Children’s Hour. She performed the show live, 5-days a week for 13 years, before it was moved to Saturdays.
Champion was named as one of the 10 Most Influential Women by the Springfield Business Journal in 2005. As she reflected on her time as “Aunt Norma” she said, “While the show did provide entertainment for children in the Ozarks, my primary goal for the program was educational. It was important to me that the show serve as a vehicle to instill positive character traits and a giving attitude in the viewers. I especially stressed that they could be tomorrow’s leaders. How affirming it has been to hear many local leaders stress how influential the show was to them during their developmental years.”
Education was so important to Champion that while her own children were in school, she returned to college where she earned her bachelor, masters, and Ph.D. all while fulfilling the roles of wife, mother, college professor, and Aunt Norma. Dr. Champion was a professor of broadcasting and communication theory at Evangel University in Springfield from 1978 until 2010.
After nearly 30 years on KY3, Champion didn’t let the cancellation of the Children’s Hour end her public service. She began her career in politics as a Springfield City Councilwoman from 1987-1992. She ran for a Republican seat in the Missouri House, where she served for 10 years and finally served as a Missouri State Senator from 2003 to 2010. She was chair of the senate committee which addressed legislation relating to public and mental health, senior citizens, families and children and also served as vice-chair of the Education Committee. One of her proudest accomplishments involved the name change of Southwest Missouri State University to Missouri State University, which involved overcoming 19 years of vocal opposition and an all-night filibuster on the Senate floor.
Last year the “Children in Crisis Tax Credit” was renamed the “Champion for Children Tax Credit” to acknowledge Champion’s previous work on this legislation as well as her legacy as an advocate for Children’s issues.
Champion grew up in Norman, Oklahoma and was married to Rev. Richard Champion until his death in 1994. She retired in 2010 and was remarried in 2012 to Michael Gollub.
A Facebook page was established in 2010 entitled “Growing up with Children’s Hour and Aunt Norma.” Fans can view vintage photos and video from the program including a music video created and written by Springfield musician Nick Sibley to celebrate Champion’s 25th anniversary on Children’s Hour.
Champion has a long list of honors and awards including a Lifetime Membership Award from the Missouri State Parent/Teachers Association in 1989, the General Superintendent’s Medal of Honor from the Assemblies of God in 2009, and she was presented the Keys to the City on “Aunt Norma Day in Springfield” in 1976. Aside from her many accomplishments as an educator and politician, she is fondly remembered and loved by thousands of people who grew up with “Aunt Norma”.
Leonard Ray “Len” Dawson was born June 20, 1935 in Alliance, Ohio, the 7th son of a 7th son. Len excelled in High School football, and after choosing to attend Purdue over Ohio State, he went on to an outstanding college football career, throwing for over 3,000 yards in three years and leading the Big 10 Conference in passing each year. During his college years, he began a friendship with Boilermaker assistant coach Hank Stram that would last more than half a century.
Dawson was the first round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1957. Two years later, he was traded to the Cleveland Browns. In both cities, he was a backup quarterback without much playing time. After speaking with Stram, now the head coach of the Dallas Texans in the AFL, Dawson asked the Browns to release him. In his first season with the Texans, Dawson and Stram teamed up to lead the Texans to an AFL Championship in 1962.
Dawson, Stram and the Texans moved to Kansas City in 1963 and became the Kansas City Chiefs. Dawson quarterbacked the Chiefs to the very first Super Bowl (then called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game) in 1966, and brought a Super Bowl IV victory to the Chiefs in 1969, a game in which he was named MVP. From 1962 to 1969, Dawson threw more touchdown passes (182) than any other professional quarterback. He was named NFL Man of the Year in 1973 and retired from the Chiefs in 1975.
While still playing for the Chiefs, Dawson became Sports Director of KMBC-TV in 1966. He would finish football practice at 5 o’clock and then do a sports report on the 6’oclock news. His on-air presence bolstered awareness for the Chiefs and ticket sales flourished.
From 1977 to 2001, Dawson served as host of HBO’s “Inside the NFL,” and also worked as an analyst for NBC’s AFC coverage from 1977 to 1982.
In 1985, Dawson began serving as color commentator for the Chiefs Radio Network. He currently works with Mitch Holtus and former Chiefs player Kendall Gammon.
In 1987, Dawson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame by his longtime friend and former head coach Hank Stram. That same year Kansas City Magazine named him “Best Kansas City Sportscaster.”
He was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in its inaugural class in 1994. Five years later, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame gave Dawson an even higher honor, naming him a Sports Legend.
Dawson was awarded the Walter Camp Distinguished American Award in 2008. In 2012, Dawson was honored with the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award for his contributions as a sports broadcaster.
Len and his wife Linda live in Kansas City, where Len is active in the community and focuses much of his energy on charity work. He continues to raise money for a number of local organizations, especially those helping needy children.
Ray Karpowicz has long been recognized as an effective and positive leader in the broadcast industry as well as the city of St. Louis.
A native of Madison, Illinois, his leadership abilities were honored early in life when he won the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medals as a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.
After graduating from the University of Missouri, Columbia in 1949 with a B.S. in Business, Karpowicz entered the broadcasting field as a salesman with the former WTMV Radio, in East St. Louis, Illinois.
Two years later, he became sales manager at WEW Radio in St. Louis and made the switch to television in 1955 as an account executive at KTVI-TV. In 1956 he joined NBC affiliate KSD-TV (KSDK), Channel 5 as an account executive, where he remained until his retirement in 1982. Karpowicz was named sales manager in 1960 and became general manager in 1969. Ten years later, he took over as head of the half-dozen outlets in the Pulitzer broadcast group, who owned KSD-TV at that time.
Insisting on complete, thorough and in-depth news coverage, Karpowicz pioneered the two-hour television news concept by programming nightly news broadcasts from 5 to 7 pm. He launched the first noontime newscast in St. Louis in 1969. During his reign, KSDK-TV produced 18 hours of local news each week. He was also instrumental in developing sports at Channel 5. He brought Cardinals baseball to his station in 1962.
Karpowicz served as Missouri Broadcasters Association Chairman in 1973-‘74. He is a past board chairman and president of the Advertising Club of St. Louis. He was named “Man of the Year” by the Advertising Federation, 9th District, in 1977, and received the Silver Medal Award from the American Advertising Federation in 1976 both for his broadcast and civic contributions in the St. Louis community.
His commitment to St. Louis is evident in two cooperative campaigns he helped launch. The “A to Z” media campaign promoted the positive values of St. Louis as a good place to live and work using TV, radio, print and outdoor venues. The campaign was a first place winner in the Public Relations Category in the 1976 9th District Addy Awards Competition. He was also the driving force in a public service campaign to support all of the St. Louis professional sports teams with other St. Louis television stations.
Karpowicz received the Missouri University School of Journalism’s highest award, the Missouri Honor Award of Distinguished Service to Journalism, in 1978. The award citation lauded “…his personal standards which have led him deeply into the civic life of his community, and the leadership of causes which have enriched the lives of the city’s underprivileged.”
Karpowicz provided KSDK’s facilities for the St. Louis Variety Club’s annual telethon benefitting the emotionally and physically handicapped children of St. Louis. KSDK also became the St. Louis outlet for the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon in 1974. There were many instances when he donated proceeds from sports telecasts or purchased tickets for sporting events and gave them to organizations such as Big Brothers.
Karpowicz served on the Board of Delegates for NBC and served on numerous boards and advisory councils for St. Louis organizations and the University of Missouri.
Karpowicz and his wife Virginia currently reside in Kirkwood, Missouri and winter in Naples, Florida. They have five children, Paul, James, Christine, Laurie and Lisa, 15 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.
Harold “HK” Koplar 1915 – 1885
On April 28th, 1959, a new television station signed on the air with its debut broadcast of the St. Louis Cardinals versus the Cincinnati Reds. After a ten-year struggle with four competing groups, Harold Koplar’s tenacity paid off, and KPLR-TV was born.
Harold Koplar (or “HK” as he was affectionately known) was a true visionary, and KPLR embodied his vision at its best. KPLR was conceived of as platform to showcase the performers that regularly played the famous Chase Club in his family’s landmark Chase Park Plaza hotel. Built in 1929 by his father, Sam Koplar, the hotel featured such stars as Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Lucille Ball and Frank Sinatra. HK wanted to bring these world-class acts to the entire city via the relatively new medium of broadcast television.
As an independent station without the benefit of network shows, KPLR was ever in need of programming, and HK set to work filling its schedule with compelling and innovative content. His love of Cardinal baseball led him to strike a deal with his friend Gussie Busch to carry the team. As the home of the Cardinals, KPLR became a St. Louis icon overnight. In addition to sports, KPLR was at the forefront of children’s programming. HK created a memorable kid’s show with the help of his old friend and vaudevillian actor, Harry Fender. When Fender agreed to the job, Koplar dressed him as Mark Twain, put a showboat set behind him, and the new “Captain 11 Showboat” sailed the St. Louis airwaves. Every Brownie and Cub Scout troop waited for months for the chance to appear on live television, with audiences of doting parents and grandparents looking on. Kids were also excited to meet regular guests Moe, Larry and Curly, whose infamous “Three Stooges” became a mainstay of the KPLR programming line-up.
Ever striving to enhance his local programming, Harold’s theatrical flair prompted him to introduce his brand new Khorrasan Ballroom in an unusual way. Always the entrepreneur, and with an architectural degree from the University of Illinois, Harold used an innovative technique in designing the nation’s first ballroom sans pillars. He created the broad-ceilinged arch utilizing empty baby food jars and ping-pong balls. Under this unique floating archway of twinkling starry lights, he debuted “Wrestling at the Chase,” which became a St. Louis institution. Joe Garagiola provided commentary while “Dick the Bruiser” and “Gorgeous George” pummeled their opponents under the glimmering lights, before capacity crowds dressed in elegant gowns and tuxedos.
In addition to his business pursuits, HK took an active role in civic affairs. He was president of the Hotel Association of St Louis, a trustee of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Association, and served as Chairman of the Damon Runyon Memorial Fund for Cancer Research. He was a board member of the St. Louis Symphony, housed in the elegant former Powell hall, which was also built by his father, Sam. He started the St. Louis branch of the world-wide Young President’s Organization, and in 1956, and was named French Consulate of St. Louis, an amazing feat considering he could not speak French!
Harold married his beautiful and loving wife Marie Lauer in 1941. He was a proud father of three: Robert, who was President of the Chase Hotel for several years until his untimely death in l977; Ted, who became president of KPLR in 1979; and Susan Brown, who, along with her family, owns and operates the Lodge of the Four Seasons, the Lake Ozark resort built by HK. Koplar passed away at age 70 in 1985.