Broadcasting Pioneer W. Russell Withers, Jr. Passes Away
Written by Your 5News Team
Last updated on January 27, 2014 @ 6:17PM
Created on January 27, 2014 @ 12:53PM
Mount Vernon, IL, January 26, 2014 - W. Russell “Russ” Withers, Jr., founder and owner of Withers Broadcasting Companies, passed away at the age of 77 with his beloved daughter Dana at his bedside.
“Russ is the last of a vanishing breed of broadcast pioneers. I will miss Russ every day.” said Washington, D.C. based Communications Attorney, Dennis Kelly. Russ is survived by his daughter, three brothers and sister. His daughter, Dana Withers, served alongside him to operate Withers Broadcasting Companies.
Russ was born in 1936 in Cape Girardeau Missouri and Graduated from Cape Central High School in 1954 later serving in the United States Army. In 1958 he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Southeast Missouri State University.
Russ began his broadcasting career as an announcer/salesman at KGMO in his hometown of Cape Girardeau, Mo. He joined LIN Broadcasting Corporation in Nashville in 1961 as a disc jockey, transitioned to sales and became vice president in 1963. During his tenure with LIN, Russ founded their cable TV division, building 50 systems throughout the Midwest and West. He was president of Schertle Galleries, Inc., another LIN subsidiary, franchising 100 art galleries.
Russ was also chairman and CEO of Withers Beverage Corporation of Mobile, Ala., Owner and operator of Page Companies (Page Insurance and real estate holdings), Russ was a regent of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois.
He was involved in industry associations and served as Chairman of the Mutual Broadcasting affiliate Board for 16 years. He has also served on the Board of the National Association of Broadcasters where he held the past position as Radio Board Chairman, served on the board of Illinois Broadcasters Association. Russ was a trustee and largest fund-raiser of the National Association of Broadcaster’s Political Action Committee (NABPAC) for 20 years. Russ was the recipient of the Wally Jorgenson award for 12 straight years and honored by the Broadcasters’ Foundation with a Broadcast Pioneer Award. He was an early member of IdeaBank International and was also a member of the Associated Press Broadcast Board. Additionally, he served as Chairman of the Illinois Broadcasters Association Foundation and was named Broadcaster of the Year in 2005 by the Illinois Broadcasters Association. Russ was named 2006 Broadcaster of the Year for West Virginia and in 2007, he was appointed to the Radio Music License Committee Board of Directors, Southeast Missouri University Alumni Merit Award. Since May 2011, Russ was a Board Member of SAGA Communications, Grosse Pointe Farms, MI. In 2011, Russ was honored by the Sigma Chi Fraternity as one to receive the distinguished “Significant Sig Award.” In 2013, Russ was granted the Honored of Order of Lincoln, Illinois highest honor for professional accomplishments and public service.
Withers Broadcasting Companies key milestones include the existing acquisitions:
Russ was actively involved in his community serving as Chairman of the Mt. Vernon Airport Authority; Chairman of the Convention and Visitors Bureau and former Chairman of the Illinois Public Airport Association. Russ also served on the Board of the Redlands Mesa Water Association in Grand Junction, Colorado.
A memorial service to honor Russ’s life will be held at Hughey Funeral Home, 1314 Main St, Mt. Vernon, IL, on Tuesday, January 28th, 2014, at 10:00 am.
Withers Broadcasting Companies are known throughout the world as a leading media operation, four television stations and 30 radio stations in the United States.
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