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Home News-Telegram News Bill Bradford, beloved local broadcasting icon, dies at 93

Bill Bradford, beloved local broadcasting icon, dies at 93

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    His voice was heard in homes around Hopkins County for 65 years, but his pioneering work in broadcasting touched lives around the world.
    Bill Bradford, a humble, hard-working man who became a beloved local icon and ground-breaking radio innovator, died Monday evening at the age of 93.


    The death of the World War II veteran and owner of KSST Radio and Channel 18 in Sulphur Springs hit the local community hard. Civic and school leaders were quick to honor Bradford, and social media was full of comments pointing out his kindness, professionalism, humor and humility.
    Funeral arrangements are under the direction of West Oaks Funeral Home. At noon today, no formal visitation or service times had been set.
    Born Nov. 5, 1920, in Marietta, Okla., Bradford  was an announcer or radio engineer in Cheyenne, Wyo., Denver, Colo., Huntsville and Corsicana before World War II, when he served as a military aviator, a multi-engine airplane pilot and communications officer for the U.S. Army Air Corps. He also flew as a radio operator for Panagra Airline in South America.
    Bradford came to Sulphur Springs in March 1948, one year after KSST went on the air. He drove up in a new Buick he had purchased in the Virgin Islands while he worked for an airline after World War II. When he deposited $10,000 into City National Bank that day, “people assumed I was a bootlegger,” he said wryly.
    A year later he was station manager, and now he is owner of KSST.
Bradford has not only seen and experienced a lifetime of incredible moments, he has chronicled them.
    “I had a fleeting thought one time that I ought to sum it all up,” he said in his usual humble style, “but all I got from that was a headache.”
    Generations of Hopkins County families have listened to his comments and his always memorable line of “Don’t think like me, just think with me.”
    The city, county, school district and hospital all honored him in October during Bill Bradford week. Additionally, the road leading to the KSST radio station was renamed Bill Bradford Road and the press accomodations at Gerald Prim Stadium carry the designation of Bill Bradford Pressbox.
    But, Bill Bradford has never been just a disc jockey, programmer or station manager.
    He is credited with organizing the Emergency Broadcasting System that Texas relies on to alert millions of people across the state to impending danger.
    And yes, he is the one who came up with the phrase, “This is a test. This is only a test.”
    He wrote that while working with an official from the Federal Communications Commission on storm warnings.
    At  KSST, Bradford has been an innovator and pioneer. Using a converted surplus World War II aircraft radar set that he purchased for $400, he was one of the first broadcasters in the world to use the technology to bring listeners in-depth, accurate information on severe weather.
    Bradford has received two U.S. Air Force commendations for building a broadcast station for Borinquen Air Force Base in Puerto Rico from spare parts. In 1992, he was named Texas Pioneer Broadcaster of the Year.
    Locally, he was named the Hopkins County Citizen of the Year in 1957 and won the Chamber of Commerce’s Vision Award in 2001.
    He was inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame in 2005 and was named Broadcaster of the Year in 2012 by the Texas Association of Broadcast Educators.

 

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