KTRE 50th Anniversary - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

KTRE 50th Anniversary

by Rhonda Oaks

Where were you fifty years ago? The year would have been 1955 and, if you were born then, you have been alive approximately 18,150 days, your heart has pumped more than 45,000 gallons of blood, the average wage was 75 cents an hour, and gasoline was 25 cents a gallon. If you were fortunate enough to call East Texas your home, you also witnessed history being made unlike any other event that has happened since in this neck of the Pineywoods.

THE EARLY YEARS

Life as it was known in East Texas changed forever on August 31, 1955 when KTRE-TV, owned and operated by Forest Capital Broadcasting Company, powered up, focused the camera lens and realized a dream come true for a local timber giant who made area television possible for the first time in East Texas. Now, on its 50th anniversary, we celebrate the accomplishments of so many who dedicated themselves to making KTRE-TV successful.

It all began with these pine forests that surround us, and a man with a big dream who made his mark in the timber business. E.L. Kurth never wavered from the idea that East Texans could benefit greatly by having local television representation that could also draw attention to the pine forests that helped to create the quality of life East Texans enjoyed both then and now. In 1949 he was honored with such titles as “South’s Man of the Year” and “Industrialist of the Year” presented by Governor Allan Shivers, former Governor W. P. Hobby and U.S. Senators Tom Connaly and Lyndon B. Johnson. 

Kurth’s dream really began its trek toward becoming reality in 1947 when he dedicated KTRE Radio as the “nation’s forestry station.” It was the first in the nation to bring attention to the need to protect forest resources. Kurth enlisted the help of investors Richard W. Wortham, Jr. and David W. Thompson, and early in 1952 the men put words into action and filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission for permission to operate a television broadcasting station. In 1953 when that permission was granted, plans were well under way for the marvel of television to be enjoyed in living rooms across East Texas.

The early years of KTRE radio were broadcast from the second floor of a downtown building on First Street where the JC Penney’s retail store would later be located. The only other broadcast news in Lufkin in the early 50’s was KRBA radio, which is owned and operated by the Yates family and is still broadcasting today.

Realizing that no dream is ever easy to achieve, the men informed stockholders that it was not a profitable idea to open the station on its own, but affiliating itself with a stronger, well-established station would be more feasible. That is exactly what happened when a second application was approved by the FCC that would provide for a partnership between KTRE and KPRC-TV of Houston, owned by the Houston Post Company. Programs would be transmitted from the Houston station via a microwave relay system. KTRE would provide all local news and locally originated programming.

It looked like the dream would be realized until the U.S. Defense Department threw a wrench in the plans and issued a stop order because the proposed location for the new station interfered with their plans of a military installation set for the same site. Not to be deterred from achieving their dream, the investors relocated to an 11-acre site directly next to the original proposed property. That original site would eventually house the Lufkin State School. By fall, 1954, the men told their stockholders they had hopes of beginning construction on the building and believed telecasting on a full-time basis could begin within a year.

By July 1955, area residents were seeing test patterns on their black and white televisions that had the townspeople, newspapers and television stations around the country buzzing. The Lufkin Daily News printed an editorial on August 30, 1955 by W.R. Beaumier, editor, stating, “There were two main topics of conversation around town…The weather and KTRE-TV. I doubt there will be many television sets tuned in on the out-of-city stations after Thursday; except during the times KTRE-TV is not on the air.” The Houston Post also carried a front-page story on September 1, 1955. The headline read, “First Satellite TV in Nation Opens at Lufkin.”

On August 31st, the dream became reality when the station was dedicated, coupled with the dedication of the new Lufkin High School on Denman Avenue. With cameras in focus, the three-hour dedication was broadcast live from the new high school auditorium and was said to be viewed for more than 100 miles. Officials with KPRC-TV were on hand for the event and the audience was entertained with talent from the local area as well as from Houston.

E.L. Kurth finally had his television station located in the dense forests of East Texas complete with call letters that complemented the idea - K-TREE, or KTRE-TV, a nomenclature required by the FCC.  What a fantastic celebration as those first signals were broadcast from a 500-foot tower over the tops of the pine forests that are the very fibers of East Texas.

THE GROWING YEARS

Finding the right person to fill that first general manager’s position for the infant station was of utmost importance. Kurth and his investors didn’t have to look far to find the man who would secure the success of KTRE-TV’s early years and set it on a course that has spanned half-a-century.

Richman Lewin worked as the KTRE radio host before the television station was built. A seasoned radio announcer who could also sell advertising, he was the perfect choice to head-up the new venture.

Delila Lewin, 83, widow of Richman Lewin, said looking back on those early years brought back some wonderful memories.

“He (Richman) really loved KTRE” she said. “Radio and television were his life. It truly does not seem like it has been 50 years since we first watched KTRE. It was a lot of hard work, but it was fun too.”

Lewin was more than just an announcer for the station. He was a true American, and would many times voice his love for freedom on the air through his “Teletorials.” Statements like, “ Lots of things are opened by mistake, but none so frequently as the mouth,” and “You know, money will buy a fine dog, but only love will make him wag his tail,” were spoken with the intent to motivate his listeners to become more involved in the community and to be better neighbors. Lewin knew the importance of having an East Texas television station that provided viewers with local representation rather than distant stations providing news from other areas.

“When the station first went on the air, we all had something here that none of us had ever had before,” Mrs. Lewin said. “KTRE people were a family. Richman loved his work and had a beautiful broadcasting voice. People here loved him and he loved people.”

Mrs. Lewin recalled yearly Christmas parties broadcast live for the entire community and the surrounding area to enjoy.

“They wanted to make the community feel like they were a part of it (the station) and they wanted everyone to know the television personalities,” she said.

Murphy Martin was another key to the success of KTRE. With a career spanning more than four decades, including a five-year stint as anchorman at ABC-TV in New York City, he said some of his fondest memories were of those early television days. Born in the small East Texas town of Groveton, Martin grew up in Lufkin and was a graduate of Lufkin High School. Ascending from humble beginnings, Martin replaced John Cameron Swayze in New York City and went on to host a weekly program, Issues and Answers. He also worked with Howard Cosell, Peter Jennings and Ted Koppel.

“KTRE played a major part in my life,” Martin said. “I did the news and sold advertising. I remained there until the late 50’s. It was because of them that I was able to go on to Dallas.”

Martin had originally worked at KTRE radio and made the transition into television with Lewin. By 1955 at the age of 30, Martin handled the sales department, worked as news director and news anchor.

Martin also served as announcer for athletic events in Lufkin. An advertising agency in New York heard one of his tapes and contacted him about possibly becoming the announcer for the Baltimore Orioles.

Since then, Martin has suffered six heart attacks resulting in several heart surgeries. Despite many health problems, his memories of KTRE remain clear. Still golden-throated at 80, Martin is retired from WFAA-TV Channel 8 in Dallas and has authored a book, “A Front Row Seat” about the four decades he spent in the television industry. 

“I have to credit my start to the down-home principles,” Martin said. “If that sounds corny, that’s because I intended for it to. Being in a small town you have many friends and opportunities to see success stories. The imprint is there of those who have made a success in Lufkin. They talked the talk and walked the walk. They joined together and showed what a community can accomplish when they work together.”

Martin recalled the early days of KTRE and how the station broadened the scope of so many lives in East Texas. He believes the fact that so much of the area was built by community effort continues to make it unique and strong today, and having a local voice provided by area television only lends to the success of a growing East Texas economy.

“We were the first satellite television station in the nation,” Martin said. “When we started getting that programming from Houston, East Texas just came alive. People tend to forget about the industry that was built there then. The paper mill, the lumber companies, the railroads, the hospital. Government dollars did not build those things in Lufkin. The community built them.”

Martin took a three-year leave of absence from television to work for Ross Perot in his “United We Stand” campaign that included a documentary written to bring attention to the POW’s and MIA’s in Vietnam. With Perot’s support, the documentary titled, “Red Tea and Promises” took him on a journey to Vietnam in 1969.

Martin said he visits Perot often and considers him a dear friend. Because of Perot’s support, he said his most memorable moment in journalism occurred in February 1973.

“I had permission to be on the tarmac when 585 POW’s had been released and were landing in Wichita Falls,” Martin said. “At that moment I witnessed one Air Force Colonel reunited with his wife, two daughters and one son and knowing that I had worked and had been involved in that, well, it made it all worth it. That Air Force Colonel is now Congressman Sam Johnson. ”

Another successful choice for KTRE was the hiring of Bill Carter in 1959. Carter now operates Sage Broadcasting Company in San Angelo, Texas. With a total of 56 years in television, the memories of 13 years spent at KTRE-TV are as vivid as if they were yesterday.

“I guess I was the news department,” Carter said. “I had a van with some radios in it and a black and white camera. We were really in our formative years there (at KTRE) back then. We were struggling until the station sold to Buford Television.”

Carter said he “grew into” being Program Director at the station. He also wrote all of his own copy and everything was done live. By the time he moved on in his career he had been named general manager.

“It was so much fun,” Carter said. “Commercials were done live. Every night at 9:00 p.m. I had to be at the station for an Ideal Sunbeam Bread spot. I was paid the talent rate and that one spot was a big part of my salary. Those were really the years when television was just beginning. My time in Lufkin was an important factor in my life, and East Texas to this day is very fortunate to have KTRE.”

Carter recalls when the cast of “Bonanza” visited the station and did a live commercial while they were in town promoting the rodeo, and also a area favorite, the HH Ranch show, starring local talent Hank and Juanita Huggins.

“Hank Huggins was one of the most talented guys I’ve ever known,” he said. “He had spent some time in Nashville. He came here and put this show together and East Texas just loved it. The music was great.”

Linda Huggins-Martin, the Huggins’ daughter, said she is reminded of HH Ranch almost on a weekly basis. She recalled the 30-minute show aired every Thursday evening and ran for about 15 years, drawing a huge weekly audience.

“A lady came up to me just last week and wanted to hug my neck just because she remembered my dad and the show,” Mrs. Huggins-Martin said.  “HH Ranch was just a big part of our lives. Dad had a great line-up of advertisers for that show because everybody in East Texas watched it.”

Huggins was offered a job in Nashville, but he and Juanita decided they wanted to raise their family in a small town. They made the move to Lufkin in 1954. Aside from the weekly show, Huggins also served as an announcer for the station. Huggins passed away in 1993 and Mrs. Huggins died in 2003.

By 1960 the station was beginning to see many changes both locally and in the television industry as a whole. KTRE  was also recognized by Governor Price Daniel for promoting local traffic safety. Vumore, a cable company, jumped on board with the station helping to send an even clearer signal to enthusiastic viewers. KTRE, still very much in its infancy, boasted a program schedule that included such favorites as Howdy Doody, Wild Bill Hickok, and Sid Caesar.

It was the death of E.L. Kurth in 1960 that brought local businesses and schools to a standstill the day he was buried. Forest Capital Broadcasting Company was only one of Kurth’s successes. Kurth pioneered the process of converting southern pine trees into newsprint, was a founder of Southland Paper Mills, Inc. and president of the Angelina County Lumber Company. Pretty good for a boy from Corrigan, Texas who had a dream. East Texans today still reap the benefits of his hard work and unwavering dedication.

The community also mourned the loss of Lewin in 1964 at the age of 47 after taking the station through its first buy out and nearly 10 years of success. By the time of his death, Lewin had served as president of the Texas Association of Broadcasters and was awarded a U.S. Treasury Department Medal for originating the one-day Radio War Bonds Sale in Angelina County.

In 1962 stockholders of Forest Capital Broadcasting Company made the decision to sell the young station. Turning down an offer that would have relocated the station between Tyler and Lufkin, owners agreed on a $750,000 price tag that would transfer KTRE’s future into the hands of a woman.

Lucille Buford, known for her determination and strong will was chairman of the board at Buford Television in Tyler. After the loss of her husband, Mrs. Buford was determined to continue the radio station he had begun and broaden her own interests by owning a television station. Fierce competition only worked to make the widow and mother of three young boys more determined. She was granted the license to begin broadcasting KLTV-TV in Tyler.

Bob Buford, 64, believes that without his mother’s hard work and determination, KTRE-TV might not be here today.

“Here she was, a single mother of three small children,” Buford said. “In 1954 when she was trying to get the license for the station in Tyler, a woman could not even sign a contract without a man’s signature. My mother took a bigger and harder risk than I did in business. I just advanced Buford Television.”

Under Mrs. Buford’s astute and successful leadership, KTRE-TV made the conversion to color television by 1970 and linked via microwave with KLTV allowing Channel 9 to receive its signal from both Houston and Tyler. Remaining true to its original Pineywoods roots, KTRE preserved its individual identity as the East Texas forestry station and continued to represent the local voice by continually and progressively reporting events and news of interest to East Texans.

By 1969 Mrs. Buford and her sons, Robert, Jerry and Jeff had developed a relationship with East Texas viewers and co-workers that had culminated into a feeling of family and trust - one that is still present today. However, tragedy struck in 1971 when Mrs. Buford died suddenly in a hotel fire in Dallas. Bob, the oldest child, took the reins of Buford Television at age 31.

“By the time I was 12 my mom was taking me around town and introducing me to the leaders of the community, and by the time I graduated from the University of Texas I just stepped right into the company,” Buford said. “I shuttled back and forth between Tyler and Lufkin and did virtually every job in the station for seven or eight years.”

Buford said he set a goal to purchase a television station a year and continued to lead the company that eventually became a multi-state network of cable TV systems. Buford said the company enjoyed a 30-year run of 20 percent annual growth.

In 1987 tragedy struck Buford again when his only child, Ross, drowned in the Rio Grande River. Buford almost lost his own life a short time later when he was in a plane crash that killed four others. The tragedies caused him to change his focus in life, and he decided to sell his interest in Buford Television to his brothers.

Buford, now a multi-millionaire with no plans to retire, owns and operates Leadership Network. He has authored four books, including Half-Time, dedicated to weary workers over the age of 50. Buford said his family was destined to be in the television business and has one suggestion on how to achieve success.

“Remember, it’s not how hard you row the boat - it’s how fast the stream is moving,” he said. “Find out which streams are the fast moving streams, and they change from time to time. You have to stay on top of it.”

Buford said the most fun he had at KTRE was, “Watching people there succeed. I had fun watching Frank Melton succeed. He is the way the American dream is supposed to work.”

Frank Melton was named General Manager of KTRE-TV in 1981. Buford Television owned the station. Melton worked as a part-time weekend sports announcer for KTRE, splitting his workweek with the Lufkin State School. Melton’s work at KTRE was a launching pad for his career. He would later be named General Manager for KLTV in Tyler. Melton was also chosen as Director of Stations at Buford Television Inc. prior to becoming president of Civic Communications Corporation. Civic would later purchase KTRE-TV and KLTV-TV. Melton proved his success in business and moved to Jackson, Mississippi where he served as CEO of TV-3, Inc. from 1984 to 2002, guiding the NBC affiliate to become the leader in Jackson-area broadcasting. 

Melton has received many awards for public service, community involvement and business leadership in Jackson. Four Mississippi Governors and two Texas Governors have recognized Melton’s leadership abilities. Melton served as Director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics in 2002, and was later appointed to chair the Governor’s Criminal Justice Task Force. The task force resulted in the first-ever victim’s Bill of Rights in Mississippi.

Melton was appointed to the Mississippi Department of Human Services Board of Directors and the Mississippi Department of Youth Services. Closer to home, Melton was the first African American to be awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Stephen F. Austin State University, and was also appointed by two Texas Governors to the Texas Board of Mental Health and Mental Retardation. Melton believes that every person can make a difference. His goal turned to politics and in June 2005 was elected Mayor of Jackson, winning by 90 percent of the vote. Melton’s drive to make a difference and his string of successes in Lufkin, Tyler and Jackson speak to his commitment, hard work and dedication to whatever tasks he undertakes.1

By 1974, Buford was challenged with the need to expand the local station’s coverage into Nacogdoches, but choosing the right person to lead the satellite office would mean success or failure in the venture. Buford found that leader not in one person, but in two. Actually, it was a team - a husband and wife team - Chuck and Mavis Hancock. Chuck had experience in television and radio and Mavis had written for a newspaper. She would be the office manager while Chuck would sell the advertising. Chuck came on board for about a six-month stint in the Lufkin office, but would move into the Nacogdoches facility with the task of selling advertising for Nacogdoches businesses that would air on the Lufkin station. Not a simple task in those days. Some businesses had no intention of buying advertising from anyone connected with the town “across the river.” The competition was fierce, but times were changing and the Hancock’s were familiar faces to Nacogdoches. They earned the trust of many Nacogdoches business owners.

“TV advertising was still pretty new in this area at the time,” Hancock said. “But they came around. KTRE in those years was very good to us.”

Hancock was recognized as the top salesperson by the mid-70s. By 1980, the couple saw the need to open an advertising agency of their own that would continue to sell for KTRE. After three years with KTRE, Mrs. Hancock would oversee their new business, Hancock Advertising. Hancock would continue to manage the Nacogdoches branch of KTRE for 10 years before joining his wife in the family business.

Judging by the number of awards that line the walls of Hancock Advertising, it is easy to see why the satellite office of KTRE was a success from the get-go. Hancock Advertising, for three generations, remains to be one of the most successful advertising agencies in the East Texas area today. In 1996, Baylor University’s Institute for Family Businesses recognized the agency as one of the top two advertising businesses in the state of Texas.

“We loved every minute of working for KTRE,” Hancock said. “They were some of the most meaningful years, and a very important milestone in our lives and careers.”

Buford recognized the hard work of many employees. In 1977 he told Errol Kapellusch he needed a good person to serve as program manager at a flailing station in South Dakota and Kapellusch stepped up to the plate. Buford again saw the need for Kapellusch’s experience in 1986 when he was named general manager at KTRE, a position he held until 2001. Under Kapellusch’s leadership, KTRE held a steady growth pattern with expanded technology and the support of programs that would allow East Texas to continue to grow.

“To serve the public’s interests, needs and concerns was a creed I tried to live by,” Kapellusch said. “I really tried to make that happen while I was there.”

And happen it did. Under his leadership, the Wisconsin native not only answered the needs of East Texans through local television, but was instrumental in the success of programs such as Angelina Beautiful Clean. Due much to Kapellusch’s efforts and support, KTRE was awarded the Keep Texas Beautiful award by the state of Texas. Kapellusch was also active in supporting Special Olympics and served on the Board of Directors for the Texas Association of Broadcasters. During Kapellusch’s tenure, KTRE was awarded the Bonner McClane Award for Public Service.

“For a station our size to achieve that merit, it was a great accomplishment,” Kapellusch said. “I have always contended that once you get into a management position, you should start having fun. It was hard work, but I had fun. As general manager, I loved seeing people excel at what they were doing. It was exciting to see people with potential do well and then move on to something better.”

When Kapellusch saw a need he was quick to try to fill it or be instrumental in helping others fill it. He played a key role in the “Great East Texas Food Drive,” a program that, traditionally in the fall of the year, would collect food from charitable East Texans and distribute it to the needy.

“Nine Who Made a Difference” was another program produced by Kapellusch that many East Texans enjoyed. The public would send in names of those they felt made a difference in the area, regardless of their stature in the community. KTRE would recognize the person recommended for the award during the news broadcasts and, once a year, a banquet was held in their honor. Kapellusch said ratings soared as viewers were anxious each week to hear who would be honored.

Kapellusch, 64, retired in the Pineywoods and plans to continue writing and researching area history. He also plans to stay abreast of the ever-changing television industry.

“I began my career writing commercials,” he said. “I remember being amazed when I saw my first video tech machine. We were still doing live commercials back then. But today, I am very impressed with the advances we are seeing in technology.”

Many changes were on the horizon for KTRE, as was a new century by the time Kapellusch decided to retire.

In December of 2000, Liberty Corporation purchased Channel 9 from Civic Communications. Liberty Corporation, based in Greenville, South Carolina, owns 15 television stations nationwide.  With the company’s strength and proven success record, KTRE audiences and advertisers have benefited from the company’s state-of-the-art equipment as well as added benefits for employees of KTRE-TV.

INTO THE FUTURE

Today, KTRE’s trade area serves six counties and more than 88,000 households. And, for the first time since Lucille Buford made the decisions, a woman is again at the helm of management.

Artie Bedard came to KTRE in 2001 from KAIT-TV, in Jonesboro, Ark., also owned by Liberty Corporation. She leads KTRE, which includes six departments and 55 employees, on a daily basis with one premise - to go from good to great you must get the right people to fit the right jobs. The same idea Kurth had so many years before. Obviously, the idea must be working at the half-a-century-old station.

“KTRE would not be here today if it were not for the men who have gone before me. Men like Richman Lewin, Bob Buford, E.L. Kurth and a host of others,” Mrs. Bedard said. “They had a dream. Once Mr. Kurth saw that his dream could be realized, the task was finding the right person to run the station. Sometimes finding the right person for a job is everything. Can you imagine if he had hired someone besides Richman Lewin to fill that first GM position? We may not have KTRE today.”

Mrs. Bedard began her career in the television industry as business manager at KAIT-TV in 1984 and worked her way to the General Manager’s position by learning everything she could about, what she calls the “exciting and complex business” before moving to Lufkin. She says the industry has changed dramatically through the years and technology now changes on an almost daily basis.

“Today East Texans have a saturation of choices from which they can get their news, information and entertainment,” she said. “It has become a much more competitive industry than when television was new. KTRE’s core value remains to be the local voice.”

Mrs. Bedard went on to say how important keeping that local voice is to East Texas, and while it is a privilege on their part to provide the representation, it is not cost-free to them.

“People rarely realize KTRE broadcast our signal at no cost to them,” Mrs. Bedard said. “Though we use the public’s airways, keeping state-of-the-art equipment to deliver the best quality signal is, in today’s environment, expensive.”

The commitment to local viewers that KTRE exhibits has been the driving force for many improvements since 2001. The station now broadcast 24/7 instead of just a few hours each day. A generator has been added so when viewers are wondering whether to take cover from a storm they can be assured that KTRE will remain on to broadcast the latest news and weather. Plans are being made to upgrade the Doppler radar system, unveiled in 2003, allowing viewers to see images that will appear 3-D or much like a three dimensional cat-scan.

Other improvements include building renovations, the implementation of new computer systems, revamping the process of news editing, reorganizing the studio news production to include new graphics, a new station logo and the implementation of  more advanced memory stick cameras that reduce the gear that videographers and reporters must carry from 50 to 35 pounds.

“I really feel with these improvements, we can compete with stations like Houston and Dallas,” Mrs. Bedard said. “With all of these technical advances, I plan to get us up to speed with the larger markets.”

The sales department at KTRE hosts a staff of seven account executives plus an internet sales director for those advertising customers who intend to build their businesses through broadcasting instead of the old fashioned word-of-mouth.

General Sales Manager Randy Robinson leads the department with an enthusiasm that is charismatic and contagious.

“Competition in the advertising business is brutal,” Robinson said. “It is a proven fact that people will drive more than 75 miles to make a purchase. For the local business, advertising is essential to their success.”

With fast-changing technology, Robinson said staying on top of the game is part of his job. An instant rating system is used daily as are laptops and training manuals for account executives to keep their sales skills polished.

“The speed at which we do this work has intensified so much,” he said. “Our advertisers know how a show is going to perform almost instantly, as opposed to reading a newspaper.”

News Director Tina Alexander leads the news department with many goals. She said one of her goals is changing the idea that KTRE is just a starting place for careers.

“A rural television station and the days of K-TREE, more focused on pine forests, have now moved into a 21st century image of being an East Texas news station,” Mrs. Alexander said. “A lot has gone into that transformation, although it has always been a family-like atmosphere, and still is. I think that is the glue that has always held the station together.”

With 21 years of experience at KTRE, Mrs. Alexander said her focus has changed with the times.

“When I first started as News Director, I recruited to fill the position I needed,” she said. “Now, not only do I recruit based on my need and whether a person has a good attitude, but I am able to recruit based on a person’s experience. I am trying to change the idea that we are just a training ground. Our focus is local and that separates us from cable and satellite. I believe it is the pulse of our community.”

Any internet search engine will now take you directly to ktre.com where viewers become readers in that they can read or view the news by streaming video 24-hours a day. Local events and information, as well as archived news stories can also be found on the ktre.com website.

Since 2001, KTRE has been recognized with numerous awards for public service, but it is the Lone Star award given by the Texas Association of Broadcasters in 2001 and 2002 that Mrs. Bedard is most proud. KTRE was also awarded the Bonner McClane award in 2002, and the State Crimestoppers Productivity award in 2003 and 2004.

Through the Liberty Foundation, KTRE in 2002 established a $500 annual scholarship donation to Stephen F. Austin State University for students of radio and television broadcasting.

Mrs. Bedard said KTRE and Liberty Corporation are a great fit for one another and for the East Texas community.

“Liberty stations operate on the premise of being a good partner in the community as well as being the news leader,” she said. “Good journalism is at our core with the goal to ensure news and information that is timely, accurate and critical to the safety of the public.”

When you stop and think about how much of East Texas has been formed around pine trees, it is truly amazing to realize that the dream of a “forest station” by one local entrepreneur helped to make our lives more secure today. KTRE-TV keeps viewers aware of not only local news and events, but also news around the world through broadcasts and the Internet.

“Hard work and money went into KTRE-TV in the beginning,” Mrs. Bedard said. “We can’t let the memories of those who worked so hard in the beginning - we can’t let them down now. We can’t let our own community down. The future is so exciting for KTRE television and I am so proud to be a part of Liberty Corporation and a part of this station.”

Midway through the first decade of the 21st century, plans are in the works at KTRE to upgrade the Doppler weather radar system, add a digital television signal, and improve the broadcasting signal so these East Texas pine trees will not hinder a quick and clear reception into our homes as they, at times, have a tendency to do. The installation of a dual microwave path between Lufkin and Tyler will be tested in the fall so that no signal will be lost on its way to East Texas homes.

Half a century. Eighteen thousand, two hundred and fifty days. Many of us won’t be here to see another one, but with sound, proven leadership in the past and in the future, KTRE-TV will be here - caring, committed and proud of East Texas.



Information for this story was obtained from:

  • Forest History Collection of the East Texas Research Center in the Ralph W. Steen Library located at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas
  • The Lufkin Daily News microfilm archives at the Kurth Memorial Library in Lufkin, Texas
  • The Houston Post archives
  • Scrapbook treasures provided by Mrs. Richmon Lewin
  • www.meltonformayor.com
  • WFAA-TV in Dallas
  • HOP&S Photography


1Unfortunately, Mayor Frank Melton could not be reached for comment for this publication.

This author wishes to express sincere appreciation to former General Manager Errol Kapellusch for assisting in the research for this story.

The opinions expressed through quotes in this story are not necessarily the opinions of Liberty Corporation or KTRE-TV.

Rhonda Oaks is a journalist and freelance writer who lives and works in Lufkin, Texas.

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