The Pioneer Broadcaster Award honors an individual who has made extraordinary contributions within the field of electronic communication and recognizes regional pioneering efforts that have laid the foundation for new levels of performance and excellence. Missouri Southern presented the first award in 1997, and continued through 2005.
The 2005 Pioneer Broadcaster Award was presented to a broadcast station, instead of an individual. WMBH has the distinction of being the longest-operating radio station in Joplin. It is recognized by many Joplin residents as the station they tuned to in the early days of radio.
The first radio station licensed in Southwest Missouri was actually WHAH, which operated from July of 1922 until September of 1924. The station brought the voices of candidates from the 1924 Presidential campaign. It also featured programs such as the Fortnightly Music Club, and the Joplin High School Orchestra.
WMBH was started in Chicago in 1926 and moved to Joplin the following year.
WMBH started broadcasting in Joplin in 1927. The studio was located in the Keystone Hotel, and the transmitter was located at 1334 Roosevelt. The station has call letters beginning with a "W" due to the fact that it was licensed to Chicago first, then moved to Joplin. WMBH used the slogan, "Where Memories Bring Happiness." One of the programs broadcast on WMBH during the 1930 s was the "Quality Hour of Music," hosted and sponsored by Joplin civic leader William Markwardt.
WMBH doubled its space with a move in 1942 to the lobby of the Frisco Building. In 1946, WMBH-FM went on the air, broadcasting a variety of informative and entertaining programs. A number of nationally-known broadcasters began their careers at WHBH, including outdoor host Harold Ensley, sports broadcaster Bill Grigsby, and Hollywood producer, Joanne Brough.
WMBH is recognized for its pioneering efforts in radio, and its impact on broadcasting in this region over the years.
Leo Stafford earned a degree through correspondence with the Chicago School of Engineering in 1928. He had early engineering experience at radio stations in Springfield, Missouri, helping to build KWTO. He moved to Pittsburg, Kansas in 1943 and helped to build the transmitter and design the towers for KOAM radio, the first radio station in Pittsburg (now KKOW radio)
In 1953, Leo Stafford was instrumental in construction of KOAM-TV. He helped to transform a wheat field south of Pittsburg into the area s first television station. He spent the spring and summer supervising construction and tower crews, and setting up equipment. The building was finished in December, and the station began broadcasting December 13, 1953. Leo Stafford was on duty at the transmitter on the first day of telecasts.
The original control room equipment at KOAM included a transmitter, control consoles for two black and white studio cameras, one film camera with two 16 mm film projectors, slide and balop projectors, an audio console and monitoring equipment. All programming was live or on film.
Leo Stafford oversaw the technical changes to KOAM throughout the years. His knack for problem-solving kept the station at the technical forefront. KOAM was one of the first local broadcasters in the country to incorporate live radar in its weather coverage.
Leo Stafford worked as a technical supervisor at KOAM-TV for 35 years. He continued to serve as a consultant many years after retiring. He died in 1996.
Leo Stafford is described by his peers as a broadcast pioneer, always curious and involved, always tinkering, always eager to learn something new. Missouri Southern recognizes Leo Stafford for his pioneering spirit and work in local broadcasting.
Carol Parker is familiar to Joplin-area television viewers. She has been the hostess of "The Carol Parker Show" and Community Affairs Director at KSN-TV since 1973. Her Public Affairs program features interesting guests from the community, cooking, and location shoots. She has interviewed a wide variety of celebrities over the years, including Bob Hope, Dennis Weaver, Willard Scott, Don Johnson, the Today Show hosts, Lisa Meyers from NBC news, and countless NBC soap opera stars. Her interviews have taken her all over the Four States, as well as Branson and New York City.
Carol Parker has worked in Hollywood under contract with Twentieth Century Fox and appeared in the movie, "There s No Business Like Show Business" as a dancer. She attended Joplin Junior College and the University of Arkansas. Mrs. Parker has published several cookbooks.
She has received numerous awards from a wide variety of community groups, including the "Woman of Achievement Award for Contribution to Communications" from the March of Dimes.
Carol Parker was born and raised in Joplin. She is married to Jack Parker. They have three children, Dr. Douglas Parker, Stephen Parker, and Dianne Parker Schramm. In addition, Carol has eight grandchildren.
Louis R. "Lou" Martin was a regional pioneer who left his mark on the broadcast industry. During a career that spanned more than half a century, he introduced many people to the changing world of radio and television. Friends and colleagues described him as communicator, speaking his mind as clearly and easily to a regional television audience as to a neighbor who had stopped by for a chat.
Mr. Martin was born in Sulphur Springs, Arkansas, in 1920, to Clarence and Mary Dill Martin, He attended schools at Sulphur Springs and Tulsa, Oklahoma, graduating from Tulsa Central High. After taking classes at John Brown University and Tulsa University, Lou got his feet wet in radio in Springfield, Missouri, and Ft. Smith, Arkansas.
He moved to Pittsburg, Kansas, in 1939, to work at the recently- licensed KOAM Radio, later to become KKOW. Lou served as program director and emcee of a live country music show, a position he would fill both on radio and television for almost half a century. Learning about a new radio format becoming popular on both coasts, Lou asked his station manager for the chance to build a morning show around pre-recorded
music. The show was called "T & T: Time and Tunes," and it likely made Lou the Four-State area's very first disc jockey.
Following time away from broadcasting to serve his country as an air cadet, Lou returned to his radio job in Pittsburg, where a few years later he met a secretary he would later describe as "the prettiest girl I ever saw." He married Eleanor Heslop in 1950. The couple moved to Tulsa, where Lou spent two years as senior announcer at KOTV, before returning to Pittsburg to start a family, and to start what was to become a forty-four year stay at a brand new broadcast facility.
When the area's first television station, KOAM-TV, signed on the air in December of 1953, the first person to greet the new television audience was Lou. He was the station's initial anchorman, but it was a position he would happily relinquish in the next few years in order to spend the evenings with his young daughters, Linda and Lana. He would serve on-air in several other capacities, among them: weatherman, commercial announcer, and host of the live country music show that would become the longtime area favorite, "Melody Matinee." Lou was also one of the guiding hands at KOAM-TV, becoming head of operations and programming.
After a broadcast career that spanned seven decades, Lou Martin retired, preferring to spend more time with a family that now included five grandchildren. However, Lou's idea of retirement meant continuing to pull a stint as noon weatherman on KOAM-TV and serving as a tour host for AAA Travel.
Lou died in October of 1997, after a fall at his home in Pittsburg. Attending his funeral were some Four-Staters who knew him only as an image in their living rooms, but felt they knew the man, nonetheless -- as well as generations of broadcasters Lou had both trained, and taught by example.
Richard W. Massa, former head of the Department Of Communications at Missouri Southern State College, received the 2001 Pioneer Broadcaster Award on October 25, 2001.
Richard W. Massa was instrumental in the creation and development of the television and radio stations at MSSC. The television station, now known as KGCS-LP, went on the air in 1984 as a cable television station in Joplin. The radio station, 88.7KXMS, went on the air in 1986. The stations provided an opportunity for the College to serve not only students, but the Joplin-area community as well.
Richard W. Massa was also a key player in the successful efforts to bring a Public Broadcasting station, KOZJ-TV, to the Joplin area. He also led efforts at Missouri Southern to establish distance learning through the Instructional Television (ITFS) system. In addition to his efforts in the field of broadcasting, Mr. Massa established the Department of Communications at Southern and was the first director of the Institute of International Studies at the College.
Richard W. Massa retired from Missouri Southern State College in 1999. Upon receiving the Pioneer Broadcaster Award, he said that he was "honored" to be considered a broadcaster.
William B. Neal, founder of radio stations KSYN-FM and KQYX-AM, received the 2000 Pioneer BroadcAward on November 10, 2000.
William B. Neal brought Joplin its first successful FM radio station in 1960. KSYN-FM quickly moved to the top of the local ratings chart, featuring rock and roll music. He also established KQYX-AM, focusing on extensive local news coverage.
William B. Neal was also active in the Joplin community. He served on the Joplin R-VIII Board of Education from 1963-1968. During his tenure, the board oversaw the transition of Joplin Junior College to Jasper County Junior College, leading the development of Missouri Southern State College.
William B. Neal is a lifetime member of the Missouri Broadcasters Association. He is a firm believer in opportunities in the Joplin area. He recalls his broadcasting experiences and says, "It's been an enjoyable trip. Joplin has been really good to us and we've enjoyed what we've done."
Don Gross, longtime radio and sports announcer and news director, received the 1999 Pioneer Broadcaster Award on November 12, 1999.
Don Gross has been a familiar voice to Joplin-area audiences since 1950. His voice and style of play-by-play announcing established his identity as the "Voice of the Lions," at the institution then known as Joplin Junior College and currently Missouri Southern State College. He also broadcast baseball games for the Joplin Miners, a class-C New York Yankees farm club with a young player from Commerce, Oklahoma named Mickey Mantle. Gross worked as sports director for KFSB radio. He later became sports director for KODE-TV and news director for KSNF-TV.
Don Gross is honored as a pioneer in broadcasting because he is a living illustration of broadcast history. He began work in the days of radio when announcers re-created the sounds and excitement of unseen actions. He illustrates the transition individuals made from radio to television, and he illustrates the devotion and dedication that most pioneers exhibit in sharing their expertise with others.
Austin Allen Harrison, founder of the original KSWM radio station in Joplin and of KSWM-TV (now KODE-TV), also in Joplin, was named as recipient of the 1998 Pioneer Broadcaster Award from the Department of Communications at Missouri Southern State College.
Harrison, who lives in Wayland, MA, was born in Carthage and attended public schools in Carthage, graduating from high school in 1939. After the war, at the age of 26, he returned with his wife and children to Jasper County to establish Joplin's second AM radio station. It went on the air in 1946.
Active in Joplin civic affairs, Harrison was named Joplin's Young Man of the year in 1950 by the Joplin Junior Chamber of Commerce. In 1954 his television station went on the air, and two years later he sold it and entered private business in Joplin, building Limberlost Resort as well as establishing a huge Christmas tree plantation.
Mr. Harrison was honored for "truly representing the pioneering spirit of electronic communications, forging new paths and new systems that others only dreamed of as being possible someday. He made dreams reality, and he was a pioneer in being an actual hands-on builder of these new realities."
Ruth I. Kolpin of Carthage, Missouri was the recipient of the first Pioneer Broadcasters Award presented by the Department of Communications. The award was presented on Friday, December 5, 1997. It is in recognition of significant and pioneering efforts in the field of broadcasting in Southwest Missouri.
Mrs. Kolpin began her broadcasting career 47 years ago with KWGB (now KLOE) in Goodland, Kansas. In 1962, she and her husband, George, acquired ownership of radio station KDMO in Carthage.
She is active in numerous community organizations, including the Carthage Chamber of Commerce, the Job Training Partnership Act private Industry council (PIC), the Spiva Art Center and Soroptimist International of Carthage.
"Ruth Kolpin represents the pioneering spirit of broadcasting and the pioneering spirit of Jasper County," stated Richard Massa, head of the MSSC communications department.