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Interview with: Ray Miller
Interviewed by: Jane Ely
Date: March 12, 2008
JE: This is March 12, 2008. I am interviewing Ray Miller of radio and television fame. Ray, where did you grow up?
RM: In Fort Worth.
JE: Is it true - in Fort Worth?
RM: I did.
JE: How did you get to Houston?
RM: It is a long story.
JE: Well, we've got time.
RM: It is a radio story. I was out of high school, went to Baylor and lasted one semester and dropped out, went back to Fort Worth. I got a job at a radio station, KFJZ.
JE: KFJZ? That was a big one.
RM: It is an old one. That is how long they have been there. So, I was working for this little radio station at night and mostly just reading the newscast every hour for 5 minutes and one Friday night, I got a phone call. In those days, you could just phone right in to a radio station or any other place. Security had not been thought of. And after I finished the 5 minute newscast, I got a phone call from a guy who said his name was Kern Tips. I recognized the name and thought, that is not very likely. Why would Kern Tips would be bothering with a phone call to me? You could not have been more obscure than I was with the radio business at that time. He asked if I had done this previous newscast and I said yes and he said, "I would like to talk to you. Could you come to Dallas tomorrow morning?" He was going to be doing a football broadcast. It turned out that he was going to be using WFAA's facilities. I thought somebody was pulling my leg. I did not believe that Kern Tips wanted to talk to me. I had a total of probably 6 months experience by that time. I decided to take a chance and go just in case it was really Kern Tips. As soon as the door opened, I knew it was Kern Tips. He had a voice like nobody else. He told me that his station was organizing a radio news department and that it was being engineered by his program director, a fellow named Jack McGrew, and I probably would be hearing from Jack McGrew. That was about all. He apparently just wanted to be sure that I was living and breathing, I don’t know. He did not ask me any questions. He apparently satisfied himself that I was what I claimed to be. So, I went back home to Fort Worth and sure enough, on the following Monday, I got a call from Jack McGrew who became my greatest friend over the years after that. Jack McGrew had come out of Beaumont and had gotten a job with Kern Tipps at KPRC reading news. He had a background of journalism, studying at the University of Texas and he got the idea somewhere that he should be organizing a freestanding news department that would operate without any supervision by the commercial side and he was working on it. I was the second person he hired for this project. I came to Houston to read the news on KPRC.
JE: When was that?
RM: I was just about to tell you that because that is the key to the whole thing. It was 1939 and the world was in turmoil, you know – wars were going on in the Far East and threatened Europe. People were interested in news like they never had been before. And so, radio stations were scrambling to get news on the air. Very few of them were in the position to do it because they had not hired anybody to do anything more than just read a copy that somebody else put in front of them. There was a severe shortage of people who could read and write, who could read and write _______ the job on the radio station in this period of time. It was just they had a demand. ___________.
JE: Did you want to be in radio or had you just kind of wound up in it?
RM: I just kind of wound up in it but my objective always was to write. I wanted to be a writer. I had not given a whole lot of thought to what I was going to write but the idea of being a writer was _____________. And so, this was the first institution I know of where street level reporters were working for a radio station and not just copying something out of the newspaper. McGrew was putting together an organization that would function like a newspaper and he did not get very far with it. He hired me, he hired Pat Flaherty (sp?) whom you remember, I am sure, and brought him over from San Antonio. He had a little background in newspapers before he started reading news on the radio. And so, he was an old hand on the radio. ________ and a few other people like this. There were a few personalities but as far as __________, it did not exist in broadcasting in this country, at least until World War II actually got started, and CBC and Merrill (sp?) put together _______ secondary operation that we do not need to describe and it became the model for _______ down here in Texas, and he hired Flaherty and me as his two first operators __________. I was in the Naval Reserve and so after a few months, I got called up and spent 4 years in the Pacific on a submarine. An idea the Navy had in the early stages before we were in the war was to build up the Reserves so they could call in people on short notice. And so, they were going around offering ratings and commissions to people who did specific jobs that they might also do in the Navy. They came to my name, and I was registered for the draft and anxious to do anything but be drafted. And so, I got an offer ________ first class petty officer’s ________ to write publicity because I had been doing a little sideline at KFJZ; besides reading the news, I was writing the promotion pieces for soap operas ________ the Texas State Network ________ and headed, by the way, by Elliott Roosevelt, the son of the president.
JE: He lived in Fort Worth, didn’t he?
RM: I did not hear your question.
JE: Did they just . . . you go to the Navy for 4 years and then came back to KPRC?
RM: Yes, that is the bottom line.
JE: Well, don’t let me interrupt you. Go ahead.
RM: Where was I?
JE: In the Navy, writing.
RM: They called me up which was in the fall of 1941. I was sent to San Diego where they were deciding what to do with . . . where this GI fit. Because I had been writing promotion pieces, they latched onto that ______ as a promotion writer. And so, they gave me an assignment to the staff of Admiral Husband E. Kimmell, commander and chief of the Pacific fleet in Boston, the whole operation. I was going to be one of the many people on his _______ staff. Public relations. It did not work out that way. I never met Admiral Kimmell. I was asleep in the barracks in San Diego on the morning of December 7 and he had orders to go to Hawaii the following Monday. They postponed the departure of the ship that was going to take me there until they could form a convoy because everything was just in chaos out there. They formed a convoy and we did get to Hawaii less than 2 weeks after the bombing. I will tell you, the base was a wreck, probably more so than anybody had been told. An obvious disaster. And they, of course, needed PR pretty badly by this time. I never laid eyes on it. Everybody else was arriving in Pearl Harbor at that time and having the same experience – how orders were just torn up and thrown away. There was an opening where somebody was calling on the radio and I had this radio and said that I was a third class petty officer and had something to do with writing, and so they put me in the submarine service in a pool of people who would be called as needed out of this pool. I lasted about one week in the pool and I was transferred to the submarine. I did not know one end of the submarine from the other. This was a very select group of people, you know, that took a lot of training. Ordinarily, it was volunteers only ordinarily but ordinarily was not defined in those days. So, I just took over the job as a yeoman, as the guy in charge of the paperwork on a submarine and I spent 4 years doing that, not on the same ship. I changed ships twice but I spent the whole war doing that. I never wrote a publicity paragraph about the Navy in my life ___________. But that took me out of the news business in Houston and ___________. The Armed Forces were not taking it full drive like . . . Patton was probably 4 years old then. But the fellow who was the network correspondent for NBC on General MacArthur’s staff died in office early in the war and ________ by this time had volunteered for the Red Cross, for working the war zone and so, he was out there. He was also on MacArthur’s staff by the time the NBC guy died. And so, NBC instead of training somebody new and trying to _______ him out there, just latched on to Flaherty. Flaherty became the NBC correspondent for MacArthur’s campaign and it was really ___________up to Manila, and therefore, was not available to do any news with KPRC. The two people who were depended on to start this operation that he dreamed about, both were doing something else all during the war. But he gave up. He never lost the objective ___________. There were detours on the way and I spent a lot of time in Australia before I came permanently back to Texas in 1948. Flaherty came back and we did indeed start the radio news department. I spent several years tramping around the streets of downtown Houston on foot . . . you know, you could cover all of downtown Houston ___________ and our studio in the Lamar Hotel which was on Main. So, it was a central location. Over the years, radio and music _________ business and then that was the foundation for the television news when television came along.
JE: When did you go to television? Did you go as soon as it came?
RM: No. It came, you know, ______ operator _______. I will think of his first name in a minute, but just Lee. Mr. Lee owned a hotel across the street from the Rice on Texas Avenue and had a radio station on the second floor of the hotel which he called KLEE, and he was the first person to apply for a TV license in Houston. He did not have deep pockets and this was a money losing business from the start because it cost a lot of money to get into it and you had to have advertisers to raise the money and if you did not have programs, you did not have advertisers and you did not have money. And so, he was in that trap and never got out of it. In less than 2 years, he was ready to sell. Somebody ________ got word to the Hobbys and they made him an offer he was happy not to refuse.
JE: What year would that have been?
RM: It would have been approximately 1950. The station went on the air as I recall it at the beginning of 1949. Don’t hold me to that but approximately the first of January of 1949. It was on the air less than 2 years, KLEE. When the Hobbys bought it, they changed the name to KPRC television and I think it still is today. Of course, the Hobbys are not doing it anymore.
JE: Did you go to work for the television station when the Hobbys bought it? Did they have a news department then?
RM: They did not have a news department. If there was some development big enough to justify a camera, Marvin Zindler would hire a camera and go and do it so that _______ by that measure and that is certainly a legitimate measure, Marvin was the first news man on television. KPRC radio was already a respectable operation with several full-time reporters. And so, all those reporters became television reporters when the sale took place if this is what you are asking. This would be around 1951.
JE: Did you do both then, the radio and television?
JE: Were you still in the Lamar Hotel?
RM: The radio station stayed in the Lamar Hotel. The television station was in Quonset Hutch (sp?).
JE: I think I remember that Quonset.
RM: _________, then the far south side approximately where we are sitting now.
JE: I was going to say, it is about here, wasn’t it?
RM: Very close to here. ___________ was a long time happening but we started putting together . . . that was an interesting time. There was no place you could go to learn how to be a television news reporter.
JE: No school for that.
RM: No school for that. And so, you looked for people with some journalism skills, some writing ability or some ego. Plenty of those. We built that news department on the foundation from the radio station and it was the first, you know, by far, in this part of the world and for a long time, the other stations did not worry too much about ________. KPRC always put a lot of emphasis on the news, being owned by newspaper people.
JE: I remember you in a trench coat.
RM: Oh, everybody had a trench coat.
JE: Yes, that seemed to be the uniform. When did you become news director?
RM: I don’t know that I could put a year to that.
JE: But you worked back and forth in radio and television?
RM: Yes. I was the KPRC reporter for the City Hall, County Courthouse, __________.
JE: Well, you followed Roy Hofheinz around town then?
RM: I did. That was an experience. That is another story.
JE: In that time, did you want to stay in radio or did you want to go to television?
RM: Well, it was always explained to me that television had bigger opportunities than radio was going to have, so I leaned that way. Larry was the first news director in Houston. For a start, he was a one-man game. He did not direct anybody. He did his thing and you did yours. He was the ________. He was the boss but he did not tell anybody else much about what to do.
JE: That should have made for an interesting operation.
RM: It did, and it did not last too long. Eventually, ________ his health got bad and _______ asked me to be news director – take over the operation of both departments, a pretty big responsibility. It was before 1960. It was somewhere in the 1950s.
JE: You were the first anchor man, right?
RM: I am not quite sure about that. Larry was the first anchor. Larry was a guy that did all his own writing and once he tried to do it on television, he memorized his lines. I have never ____________. But that is the way he did it. You cannot do a long program that way.
JE: No, you can’t!
RM: His technique did not pass on because, for a good while, we had those teleprompters. Teleprompters did not come along at the beginning, or, not in Houston anyway.
JE: O.K., so you became news director and you became the anchor person. You did read the news, right? I mean, you were the broadcaster . . .
RM: Actually, we hired 2 or 3 other people before I __________. I could not understand his attitude. He never thought I was a natural. He was looking for somebody more of a natural and so we tried several other people to come in and be the front man.
JE: When you started, besides the Eyes of Texas, you had that Sunday news show. Which came first? I mean, the panel thing that you did – kind of a pattern, I guess, of Meet The Press.
RM: Everybody was doing . . . that was first. The Eyes of Texas evolved out of a series of special programs that we did over the years about this and that aspect of Texas history or Texas geography. Special programs with Frank Dobbs, Gary James and I, put together as a side line ___________ and out of those programs came the idea for ___________. All you had to do was say you would do it. He did not tell you how to do it. He believed in _________ responsibility. And so, he told me one day ____________, he was adding a new half hour program to the schedule on Sunday nights at 10:30 and it was going to be the news department’s mission to produce that program and I should go and think about ___________. It came off in the beginning as a mixture of travelogue and hard news. It became apparent right away that there was more interest in the travelogues and Texana. Very plain there was a lot of interest there, and very little . . . by Sunday night, people had already heard the news and did not care about . . . it was not an attraction. And so, by the time it was in its second year, we were focused entirely on Texana for that program and the light company or the phone company were wise enough to buy time. Well, they took turns sponsoring it. It was a hit.
JE: Did you just decide where to send Gary and Frank or did they kind of wander around on their own?
RM: No, you don’t do that. I told them where to go, what time to get back and what to have with them when they got back.
JE: Well, you were known as an exacting news director.
RM: They exaggerated that.
JE: I don’t know. I dealt with you occasionally and I would say you were exacting but of all the stories that you have covered and dealt with, are there any that particularly stand out to you?
RM: The space program. We knew we were in the big leagues when we got that space base.
JE: And just the total concept of it? Did you have a full-time space reporter?
RM: For a while I did, yes. And for a while, the Post did.
JE: Yes. How did you deal with that, the Hobbys having a newspaper and a television station and a radio station? Were you competitive with the newspaper, would you say?
RM: No more so than with the Chronicle.
JE: No more so than what?
RM: We treated the Post and its operators the same way we treated the Chronicle.
JE: What did KPRC do when Kennedy was assassinated? Did you send people to Dallas?
RM: We sent Tom ________ and Lee Tucker _________. They were both crackerjack operators and I sent them both to Dallas. They stayed there a whole weekend and produced, of course . . . we jumped on stories anywhere in Texas. We started pretty early.
JE: I remember the days when you used movie cameras or what looked like movie cameras.
RM: They were film cameras.
JE: Yes, and that went on pretty long, didn’t it?
RM: It certainly did.
JE: KPRC usually in the lead in buying equipment? Like, the Hobbys did not spend money gracefully in a way.
RM: No, but they spent it when they had to.
RM: That was a good example. That station had the first of everything. The first color. In the beginning, stations did not even have their own laboratories to process films, so we were the first to have a laboratory and the first to have color and the first to move from film into electronic cameras.
JE: How long were you there?
RM: It was almost 50 years.
JE: 50 years?
RM: Yes. Counting those periods before World War II.
JE: What do you remember about it the most, Ray? Gosh, you’ve covered so much stuff.
RM: The thing I got the biggest satisfaction out of always was the Eyes of Texas because it was an eye like ________ to focus on aspects of Houston and Texas that appealed to me.
JE: At one time, there was a lot of talk about you running for office.
RM: At one time, I thought about running for Congress.
JE: Would that have been DeLay’s seat?
RM: It became DeLay’s ___________.
JE: Why didn’t you do it?
RM: Wrong poll. I did not think I could make it.
JE: Well, you gamage traded that off for a while. So, you went to work for Raddack, right?
RM: Not until I was finished with __________.
JE: O.K. Did you continue to do Eyes of Texas?
RM: I did it for 3 years after I retired.
JE: When did you retire?
RM: I believe it was 1979.
JE: Is it your program?
RM: Oh, no. I conceived it, I guess, is the word, and ______ it and guided it ________ it was my baby.
JE: Who was your biggest competition?
RM: Marvin Zindler.
JE: When he went to Channel 13?
JE: Now, Dave Ward was always at 13. Stone went from 11 to 2. Did you hire him?
JE: So, you had complete control of the whole operation then?
RM: I would not say that in the presence of Jack Harris but he gave me latitude that was almost unprecedented ____________.
JE: You had the biggest operation, didn’t you?
RM: Always. The biggest ____________.
JE: Did you deal with the Hobbys much?
JE: What about when they bought other stations? Did you have anything to do with them around the country?
RM: A little bit with the Tennessee station. It was the first out of town station and because it was ___________ it was like a brother and sister relationship.
JE: Do you have any regrets about any story you ever handled? Anything? Something you wished you’d done? 50 years is a long career.
RM: Well, the thing is I got to do most of the things I wanted to do and the things I did not do, I guess I was not smart enough to think about them.
JE: O.K. Television news in Houston, at any rate, kind of grew from police stories and . . .
RM: It came back to police stories.
JE: It has come full circle at KPRC, hasn’t it?
RM: It sure has.
JE: Do you ever go out there?
RM: I have not been on that campus in probably 10 years.
JE: Who was the most interesting person you covered in Houston? I mean, you didn’t have to cover him but who gave the best news or the most fun or something?
RM: I think the guy who attracted my attention was George Brown.
JE: George Brown?
RM: He had so much to do with the ___________ and it wasn’t that he wasn’t recognized but very few people realized the extent of his influence. He is the fellow who is responsible for those dams upstream that came to Houston’s dependence on underground water. Think what Houston would be if we did not have those dams today. That is one example.
JE: What about the Dome? Was that a big story?
RM: Oh, yes!
JE: How did you start covering that on the basis of . . . I mean, most people thought it was never going to happen and that it could not happen.
RM: Yes, I remember it and you probably do, too, when the got the hole in the ground . . . for a long time, it was a hole in the ground and when it rained, it filled up with water. The Houston Press had a picture on the front page, “Lake Elliott.” They named it for Bill Elliott, the county judge. And he never tried to avoid the responsibility. He did play a big part in it. But nobody played a part bigger than Hofheinz. Now, there was a character.
JE? You covered him, I guess, from county judge to mayor to Dome person, right?
RM: Yes, and I loved him because he was good for a story every day because he was up to something all the time.
JE: Good copy.
RM: And aware of it.
JE: Yes, he was a showman, wasn’t he?
RM: He really was.
JE: Well, as a news director, did you go from police . . . as I recall, you used to have reporters that were kind of assigned to beats.
RM: Yes. That was the original ________ plan even though it was built on the newspaper pattern and other stations tried it off and on but nobody else ever consistently did it year after year, and it made a lot of difference. The late Jack Cato was a guy who had more ________ than any reporter you ever heard of. Jack made his own hours, he chose his own car, he selected his own equipment and radios, and he just pretty much did what he wanted to do. He was our ambassador to the world of law enforcement. He knew everybody.
JE: He did.
RM: And anything that happened, he heard about it first. I can’t tell you how many but a lot of officers in our police establishments would call Jack first before they did anything else when something big happened.
JE: Yes, I believe that. I taught him how to load his camera.
RM: Well, I am glad you did.
JE: It was good, wasn’t it? Did you hire Kay Bailey?
RM: I did.
RM: Her mother asked me that question, too. I am fond of the lady now but, of course, I did not know her from Adam. I will tell you this about mE: to whatever extent I succeeded in what I was trying to do, I attribute to my policy. I never changed. I saw everybody who came to see me, no matter what I was doing or how long I might have to make them wait – if somebody came to see me, I saw them. I can give you a list of the people who are still working in television today who went to work for us because I met him or her that way. ______________.
JE: Well, did you make up your mind you wanted to hire a woman or did Kay just come along . . .
RM: She came along in a time when this was in the minds of a lot of people in the news business – not just me. But I got the break. I was not full-time but I was part-time thinking about a woman correspondent; that obviously you ought to have one and _____________. But she came to see me one afternoon and her own story about it is that she was driving on Post Oak Road from someplace to someplace else and passed the station and she was looking for a job anyway and she had not been able to get a job with a law firm. They were not hiring women, is the way she put it to me. And so, just on a lark, she decided to stop at the television station. She had never been there before. And so, she dropped by and sent word to me that she was waiting to see me in the lobby. She had a fresh law degree from the University of Texas. I had it in the back of my mind the concept of a hard-time bureau in Austin. So, she joined at UT and then went to law school. ____________. She would make this pitch to me. She did not even know what I was thinking, of course, but I was interested in adding a woman to the staff – not getting rid of a guy in order to get a gal but adding _______ staff. I wanted a part-time bureau in Austin that ________ just for the legislatures in session but needed somebody who knew his or her way around and if she or he did not know the tricks of the television business, well, you teach them that. And so, we _______ a conversation about who she was and what she was interested in, what she had done, and the upside was that she convinced me that she could do what I was looking for. I said, “O.K.” You know what I am talking about? She could convince you.
RM: Essentially, the answer to the question is what did you think you were doing? That is what I was doing. I was adding a female and a bureau chief and look where it led to?
JE: I would say it was an auspicious beginning. When they moved way out on the freeway where KPRC is now, did you design the newsroom? I mean, did you have . . . going from a Quonset hut out there was a big leap.
RM: It was a big leap. I was consulted by the architects. The architects had the last word. It was an architect building and there were some impractical aspects to it including some in the news department. The architects who worked on it had never worked in news, of course. They built a show place.
JE: Yes, they did.
RM: And we had to work in it and make it work. That is a story that is not unique to KPRC. Hire an architect and give them a . . .
JE: I worked at the Houston Post. What is the biggest change you have seen over the years in Houston? You could not cover it walking through downtown now.
RM: No, you couldn’t. The thing that has always been strange to me and still is today and I can’t get used to it is that people are born and raised and educated and live and die in this town without ever knowing very much about it. I would hire people who were born here and educated here and lived here all their lives, and tell them to go to City Hall. “Where is City Hall? What goes on there? What is a city hall?” I am not making this up.
JE: No, I believe you.
RM: How can people be so unconscious?
JE: Well, I have known reporters who were sent to City Hall that did not know where it was, and the enterprising ones found it, I guess. They don’t cover City Hall much anymore, do they? When did the beat thing go away?
RM: After I left. It lasted as long as I lasted.
JE: What newscast do you watch now?
RM: Well, I think the newscasters, they come closer to what I figure newscasters should be.
RM: They throw everything at it. They do things they don’t have to do. They send people they don’t have to send. They send people to places they don’t have to send them to. And that is the difference between that station and the other stations at this time. Of course, something is changing all the time.
JE: Were you always in charge of radio and television?
RM: We eventually split the two stations completely and hired a fellow named John Davenport to run the radio station. He had delusions of grandeur that did not last very long. But the division did and they continued to be separate operations from that time on. And eventually, it was sold separately.
JE: That’s right, they were, weren’t they?
JE: But they both operated out of that building, didn’t they?
RM: They did in the beginning. Eventually, ___________ was sold at some point, the radio station but I was not there. I could not give you the details.
JE: Did you deal with the Hobbys much?
RM: With Bill, quite a bit sometimes during election campaigns. You know how he is about politics.
JE: Did you cover his campaign? I know you did but . . .
RM: We treated him just like any other candidate.
JE: What about Mrs. Hobby? Was she interested in television?
RM: Mrs. Hobby was interested in everything she owned.
JE: She shared her wisdom with you?
JE: How was that?
RM: She recognized how important a favorable comment from her was to the people working for her.
JE: Did you and Jack Harris leave at the same time?
RM: No. I left first.
JE: You left first? Why did you retire?
RM: Well, we had a misunderstanding, Jack Harris and I, about what I should do. This would have been in 1979. He wanted to divide the news director’s job up and let me preside over it and have somebody else run it and I just told him I could not do that.
JE: So, you retired. You continued to do Eyes of Texas for a while. And then, is that when you went to work for Steve Raddack?
JE: What did you do then?
RM: After I retired, I worked for a company _______ KTRH and then, Channel 11.
JE: You worked at Channel 11?
JE: I do not remember that.
RM: The last 10 years of television that I did was at 11.
JE: What did you do there? Were you a news director?
RM: Traveling Texas.
JE: Traveling Texas? O.K. That is your real love, isn’t it, history?
JE: O.K., well, we will do some more history. You have concentrated a lot on Houston. Is that just because you got tired of traveling?
RM: Well, eventually, it was an issue with my family.
JE: Oh, they wanted you at home? Well, that is a good reason, I guess.
RM: It is the best reason.
JE: Your family must have put up with a lot.
RM: They did.
JE: You kept wretched hours.
RM: They did. ___________.
JE: Two boys?
RM: Yes, we had 2 boys.
JE: What do they do?
RM: One of them died in 1988 and the other one is a federal district judge.
JE: Really? Where?
RM: Right here. __________.
JE: ____________. Which one?
JE: Yes, of course. Did you live in the same house? For how long?
RM: We had that same piece of property since 1977. It is a piece of land that is just over one-third of an acre.
JE: Where was it?
RM: On ______ Lane.
JE: Where is that?
RM: It is off Memorial on the north backup to the bayou, opposite Bayou Bend, opposite ___________.
JE: Oh, yes. O.K. It was an old house built in the 1920s and we bought it for a good price in 1979. And in 2000, we made a deal with _______ to take the property and pay us for it and we retained that one-third of the property _________ would build a house for us and __________ for his trouble. That is what we did ________ developers. He created a subdivision, a three lot subdivision. That is where we were living. We had a beautiful view of __________.
RM: _____________. It is 3 stories high at the bayou and 2 at the front. It’s got another level below the street level.
JE: That made having a broken leg and a broken hip handy, didn’t it?
RM: It did. We both saw the need for an elevator and we put an elevator in but that was a small part of the problem.
JE: I am Jane Ely and I am interviewing Ray Miller.
RM: I am proud to be interviewed by Jane Ely.
JE: Oh, I am proud to be interviewing Ray Miller. I never thought I would see this day.
RM: You have interviewed everybody else.
JE: I have had a shot at most of them. Have you noticed any change in city and/or county government in Houston?
RM: I don’t know any of them.
JE: Well, that is a change. It is a big change.
RM: It really is. Every once in a while . . . I still read the newspaper . . . there is quite a difference . . . every once in a while, I come across the name of somebody who is said to be a member of the City Council – I have never heard of them before.
JE: Well, don’t you think that is more pronounced with everybody?
JE: That people in the City as a whole . . . you speak of people who were born and educated and lived their lives here that don’t know where City Hall is – do you ever get the sense that a lot of them don’t even know there is a city hall?
RM: And they don’t care. I feel they don’t care. That’s got to change. It has always been true that there have always been people who are unaware of their surroundings and they always will be but I think the numbers are growing.
JE: What do you think is the most interesting place in Houston? You used to take people on tours I know.
RM: Yes, I have done a lot of that. I am trying to think what is the most interesting. I will tell you something that I have frequently noticed that I am surprised about. Harrisburg _________ running from Texas Avenue out to the Port goes through the most heavily Hispanic area in Houston and there has been a little bit of effort out there to make the architecture match the background of the people who have been there - the Mexicans living in houses all through there and Mexican business buildings – and that seems to me ought to be plenty of there . . . the people who have interests out there have an opportunity I think to create a piece of Mexico. It already is as far as the population is concerned but you know, the Mexican bus line carries people in from Mexico and on in to the interior – that is where they stop is Harrisburg.
JE: What about the Port of Houston?
RM: It is right there.
JE: As a news man, how aware of it were you and how did you cover it?
RM: Well, I covered it like I covered counties of government. I was aware when I came to Houston that it was a major seaport and I was curious _______ am I getting somewhere? I wondered about a lot of things. So, when I moved to Houston, as I lived here a little while, it occurred to me I have never seen this port. I asked somebody where was the Port? “Where can I go to see the Port?” Eventually, I found somebody who was able to steer me to the _______ Basin and I was able to see that there actually was a seaport down there that is out of sight. This is before the 610 bridge, of course. The 610 bridge shows you the whole thing now but you don’t dare take your eyes off the _______ to look at it. How many people have ever asked you as a long-time resident of Houston, where is the port, where is the seaport?
JE: You are asking me where it is?
JE: Oh, I know where it is.
RM: I know you could answer the question but has anybody ever asked you the question?
JE: Oh, no. Occasionally, someone will.
RM: __________. Of course, the Loop has educated a lot of people.
JE: What about the Medical Center? I guess you have seen it grow from . . .
RM: From when M.D. Anderson Hospital was over there on Bagby Street in the old house. And I knew some of the Andersons. I had an interest in and a stake in the development of . . . everybody who lives here has a stake in the Medical Center.
RM: If you didn’t live this close to the Texas Medical Center, you would wish you did.
JE: Oh, yes. It was a concept that a lot of people missed though, I think. For a long time, I think they thought of it as just a big hospital, which ever one they happened to visit or see. When do you think it became a big business? It is the biggest employer in Houston now.
RM: I could tell you when it started to happen.
RM: When Baylor hired Mike DeBakey.
JE: That would figure. During the heart transplant thing, how did you all cover that?
RM: Well, ________ were stuck with news conferences. We covered it like we covered NASA. We went to news conferences where they talked about things we had never seen.
JE: That is an interesting point. Were you still . . . I know you must have been there when Gus Grisom and the first Apollo crew were killed.
JE: Were you still in the news business for the second one? I cannot remember when it was. Probably around 1984 or 1985. What was the biggest space you did? I mean, how does a television station cover a man on the moon?
RM: Well, we were down at the space base at Clearlake. That is the closest we got to the moon.
JE: How much work did you all do with the network?
RM: In the early days of the space operations, the networks would hire equipment and trucks from the local stations. KPRC furnished a lot of the NBC equipment and some of the other networks as well did pretty well.
JE: Were you married when you came to Houston?
RM: Not the first time. The first time when I came down from Fort Worth, I was not. I married Mrs. Miller in Australia in 1946 and we lived in Australia at the time.
JE: What did you do there?
RM: I was the news director for a radio station in Sydney.
JE: That is cool!
RM: It was something different.
JE: How different?
RM: I don’t believe anybody else has done it.
JE: Well, that is true, but did you do it pretty much the same way? Did your experience help you or hurt you?
RM: That is a good story. I went to Australia to marry Mrs. Miller because we already decided to get married but we did not marry during the war. There were complications to that. I just did not want to get into red tape and the Navy. And so, we were going to attend to it after the war. It turns out at the end of the war, that there were thousands of women in Australia waiting for transportation to the United States because they had married service men during the war, and those who hadn’t already gotten married had a very low priority, and transportation was rationed the first couple of years after the war. And so, Mrs. Miller was staying in Sydney and I was being . . . we had not anticipated there being any problems about getting together after the war but I was here and she was there. I could go freely down there but she could not come freely up here. And so, I just decided, well, this is not working and I took a leave from KPRC and caught a boat to Australia. We got married and then started to think about how we were going to make a living. I went and talked to the biggest radio station in town on the receptor here and my experience with Jack McGrew and his concepts carried me to the front of the line for consideration of a job of running the news department in the biggest station in Sydney. So, I was in my 20s – I think I was probably 24 at the time.
JE: You were 24?
RM: Something like that.
JE: Wow! Did you do on air work? How did your accent work?
RM: That is a good question, too. They would not let me read the news because the accent was too much. They did not want to let the world in on the fact that they were dealing with a Yankee, I guess. I did the work. I don’t know about now but then, Australia was a union shop from top to bottom and wall to wall. They had union writers who only wrote and did not read. We had union readers that only read and did not write. And we had stenographers who _________ and did not read or write but did only copy work. Three unions in one shop. It sounds terrible but there wasn’t any problem at all. We all got along quite happily. I don’t know _______ do it over again but it worked. We did a good job and got credit for it, and it helped me get back in a trade over here on this side.
JE: When you started television work in Houston, did one reporter and one camera go out?
RM: Yes. Do you remember Bob Gray?
RM: Bob was the first camera man and I was the first partner _________. We were a one man gang for a while. We were the whole bubble end of the Channel 2 news department. One car. One camera. And 2 guys.
JE: Well, you grew it, didn’t you?
JE: How many people worked for you when you left?
RM: Oh, it was up over around 100. I honestly don’t know.
JE: Around what?
RM: Around 100.
JE: 100? Why, that is quite a growth.
RM: For a while, it looked like there was no end to it. It was just money kept pouring in __________ machine.
JE: Did you think it was going to go that way? I mean, did you envision that television would be the only news source for a long while?
RM: I think I did.
JE: Did you think that you would ever see the Houston Post fold, for example?
RM: I never was _____________.
JE: I mean, I can remember when Post reporters were told that . . . we were a tip service for you all. I think you paid us a dollar, two dollars – I don’t remember what – but the papers were there. You know, everybody at the paper had their beat and everything and we would call you and tell you what was happening. I don’t think it worked very well but that was the idea.
RM: We got information wherever we could find it.
JE: But now, you see the papers quoting television stations.
RM: Yes. It totally is a 24 hour operation.
JE: Yes, fighting the net. Have you succumbed to computers?
RM: No. I have one ___________.
JE: You raised a family in Houston. What difference do you think there is now in doing that? I mean, where did your kids go to school?
RM: They both went to Catholic schools and graduated from Strake.
JE: But in terms of leeway and freedom, I mean, did your boys have more freedom than kids do today?
JE: Do you think it is the size of the city that has done that or just the times?
RM: I think it is just evolution. I don’t think it will get better.
JE: You don’t? How does it feel to have a son who is a federal judge?
RM: Well, I feel like I’d better behave myself!
JE: Do you find yourself occasionally, when some story happens, you wish you were doing it?
RM: All the time.
JE: What recently has affected you that way?
RM: Every time there is some addition or subtraction from the park lands and the Big Bend Country . . .
JE: __________ interesting concept. Well, that is going right now, isn’t it? I can’t keep up with it. It is kind of like Rockets basketball. Ups and downs.
RM: One of my favorite characters in all my career was the Hallie Stillwell . . . do you know who that was?
JE: Hallie Stillwell? No.
RM: She was a widow who inherited a ranch in the Stillwell Mountains outside of Big Bend and ran that ranch herself personally __________ for a lifetime, and raised her family. And whenever she got hard up for money from ranching which was pretty often, she would go to run her offices . . . she was Justice of the Peace for a while. A real . . . you wish you had a grandmother like that.
JE: She sounds it.
RM: She is no longer with us but she was one of my favorite people.
JE: How did you find her?
RM: Oh, it wasn’t hard to find her. She had a column in the newspaper.
JE: O.K. So, when you started, you actually stood up on the street and did the reports, right?
JE: When you were covering it alone, where did you spend the most time?
RM: I always thought of City Hall as my base.
JE: More City Hall than police then?
RM: Yes. We always had competent police reporters. I never felt like I had expertise to take that job over.
JE: How many mayors did you cover? What mayor did you start with?
RM: Oscar Holcombe.
JE: Oscar Holcombe? What about him? He is a legend but I don’t know a whole lot about him.
RM: He was an old time politician. Charming. Maybe a little slippery. And a ________ commander of City Hall. Whether he was mayor at the time or not, you know, he was in and out and in and out. He had to check the roster to be sure who was the mayor, whether Oscar was back again. He served 11 two-year terms.
JE: 11? Wow! Who else was mayor?
RM: Oh, gosh! Roy Hofheinz __________.
JE: Which was more colorful, Hofheinz or Holcombe?
JE: More fun to cover?
RM: Yes. A lot of them were trying to be colorful. He was not unconscious of being colorful.
JE: That must have been fun. Did you cover county government much?
RM: Yes, quite a bit.
JE: Well, you know, it is still designed of the ________ of 200 years ago or something. Was Hofheinz county judge when you were . . . I guess he was, wasn’t he?
RM: No, I missed that. I was not here when he was county judge. I don’t remember now whether it was because I didn’t come here yet or whether I was in the war.
JE: Bill Elliott. He was _____ a long time, wasn’t he? Did you think that Lindsey was going to beat Elliott?
RM: No, and nobody else did.
JE: I did. Me and Nancy Palm. I am sorry – go on.
RM: I would have respected that ________ if I had known about it. The first _______ we ever made of the lightning-like instant TV coverage that we take for granted today involved Bill Elliott and Larry Erasco (sp?). We were using our electronic portable camera for the first time during an election that night. And when Lindsey eased Elliott out of office, I don’t remember what reporter – I wish I could remember what reporter was with the camera but I told him to go and find Bill Elliott which was a perfectly obvious thing to do but nobody else had done it and nobody else had the capacity to go to him and put him on the air right then. This was the first time we had done that and used _______. And Larry Erasco, who probably had a couple of drinks, he did that. He was a reporter with the ______ truck and ________ through Pasadena _______ where he was just astonished. He was struck by lightning. Did not see it coming. And we put them on the air live, this half-soused reporter and the heartbroken county judge. It was touching. I have seldom been as touched by anything. Of course, live is everywhere now.
JE: What other firsts did you do?
RM: Gee, I don’t know. There must have been a bunch of them.
JE: Were you around during Apollo 13? I have no sense of ______ anymore. That would have been in . . .
RM: I don’t think I was around then.
JE: . . . the 1970s. You know, it happened in the middle of the night when they realized, “Houston, we’ve got a problem.”
RM: It was in the 1970s. I was at Channel 2.
JE: Yes, it was in the 1970s.
RM: I don’t have any personal recollections of that.
JE: What effect did it have when you went to color? Did it affect your news operation at all? You used to make your guys wear neckties, didn’t you?
RM: Well, I suggested that they did. You can’t make people do anything. They used to take them off as soon as they’d walk out. Without a whole of success, I tried to impress the people working for us that they were in a different category from the people working for the other stations in that any moment they were on the streets, they might come face to face with the owner of the station. I said, “Now, what do you want to look like when that happens?” And that worked for some and for some, it didn’t.
JE: Did Mrs. Hobby ever give your news department neckties? Your photographers?
JE: She gave the Post photographers neckties one year.
RM: I did not even know she had a fetish about neckties.
JE: She was probably glad when they wore shirts. When you think about it, when you started your career in Houston, Texas, and you came down here to live, you didn’t have air-conditioning, did you?
RM: It was some while after World War II before it became commonplace.
JE: Where did you live when you first came?
RM: In the YMCA for the first few nights. Then I found a room in the boarding house out by San Jacinto High School _______.
JE: Did you have a car?
JE: How did you get to work?
RM: I pretty much walked.
JE: If you didn’t, could you ride a bus?
JE: So, you never went anywhere you couldn’t walk, right? I mean, did you jump in a cab and go to . . .
RM: Yes, you could do that. But I have always been thrifty. I did not hire cabs . . . you are not going to get there any other way.
JE: Well, you sometimes had to hurry, didn’t you?
RM: Yes. It was a short period of time.
JE: As a radio reporter, you carry a recorder?
RM: Not in the beginning because we did not have them.
JE: You just went and covered it and then reported it?
RM: We had a leased telephone line in the basement of the City Hall in which we installed a microphone and an amplifier and a telephone booth. We only had the one . . . reporters could come to the City Hall from the other locations and make reports on this ________. It was handier than going all the way to the station. It was the first.
JE: Did you spend all day at City Hall?
JE: Well, you developed good contacts then, didn’t you?
RM: Yes. That was Flaherty’s arrangement when he was news director. He put me in City Hall. I was very proud of that. The parking lot at the City Hall had 4 reserved spaces for reporters - The Houston Post, the Houston Chronicle, the Houston Press and KPRC. That is how we knew we were legitimate.
JE: That was heady _______? Do you remember when the Press folded?
RM: Oh, yes.
JE: What effect did that have on you?
RM: Well, I missed the Press. I enjoyed reading the Press.
JE: Did you hire anybody from the Press?
RM: Never did. _______________.
JE: Did you hire anybody from any newspaper, the Post or the Chronicle?
RM: I did. I don’t remember now who it was. I hired somebody from the Chronicle. I don’t even remember his name. I hired somebody from the Chronicle and found out that way that the Post and the Chronicle did not hire each other’s employees. I heard about it too late. It was policy but I did not know it.
JE: When they started the sit-ins downtown and just integration as a whole, how did you all handle it?
RM: We went. We sent reporters and cameras. We sent reporters and we sent cameras.
JE: Did you broadcast it?
RM: Yes, we did.
JE: Well, the papers had a deal not to cover them, didn’t they?
RM: I don’t remember. At one point, they probably did. It did not endure. I remember there was Weingarten’s store over on Almeida that was a favorite place. You got me. I am not sure. I will tell you this – I never had any instructions not to, and when the conclusion was arranged by Bob – what is his name, the promotion man at Foleys?
JE: Yes, I know who you are talking about.
RM: _________ KPRC.
JE: I don’t know who you are talking about.
RM: He is a public relations guy. Anyway, he is the fellow who engineered the breakthrough sit-in, sit down at the coffee shop at Foleys one day that was conducted on a surprise basis and no reporters went. We were told about it earlier, were told not to. And so, it was unreported but it happened and it was reported as a fact that they had been served at Foleys and that just kind of settled the waters. Obviously Bob Dundas (sp?) engineered that and I have been asked many times since then if I was told not to send anybody to Foleys. I can say for an absolute fact that I did not. I did not know anything was going on at Foleys. Nobody told me.
JE: That wasn’t like Foleys.
RM: It wasn’t. Jack Harris knew it but he didn’t tell me and I wonder why he didn’t. I always wondered. The editors all were in on it _______ Harris decided to just sweat it out and see if I found it out on my own. I didn’t and it was all over and done with before I heard about it.
JE: Don’t you think that was the intent?
RM: I think it was certainly the intent but the thing that puzzles me about it is that Harris did not tell me. He did know.
JE: Did he tell you about many things along the way?
JE: I mean, was he a good source?
JE: After that, you stopped covering them then, it was just considered a fait accompli?
JE: What about TSU? Do you remember the shoot out there?
JE: How did you cover that?
RM: We covered it with video.
JE: Just went in on the line of fire?
RM: Yes. I don’t think we had Cato yet at that stage so I am not sure who did that.
JE: You hired Cato part-time, didn’t you?
RM: No. Cato was originally as a floor camera man in the studio at Channel 2 and then he went to 13. He worked as a police reporter there and he was picking up stories that I was missing so I hired him and that is when he came to Channel 2.
JE: He worked for a radio station for a while.
JE: I cannot remember the call letters now. KF something . . . Who was the most colorful employee you ever had?
RM: Will Sinclair.
JE: Will Sinclair? Why Will Sinclair?
RM: Well, he was a charmer. He was not trustworthy but he could charm you.
JE: He was a character, wasn’t he?
RM: Oh, gosh.
JE: How long did he work there?
RM: A couple of years. It was not a long time.
JE: Well, he was always looking for the big story. I don’t think he ever found it.
RM: I didn’t hear about it if he did.
JE: Who was your favorite anchorman?
RM: Larry Erasco.
RM: He was just lovable Larry.
JE: I thought you would say yourself.
RM: Oh, no. I am a realist. I know I am not lovable.
JE: Well, I don’t know that that would be a term that often was associated with you but I think your people liked you a lot, had a lot of regard for you.
JE: Do you ever hear of many of the people you used to work with?
RM: Oh, yes.
RM: I guess I had frequent touch with ____________. Phil Archer is a close friend. I think he may be the only reporter still alive from my day. There are still several camera men still there.
JE: Where did Yuri James (sp?) go?
RM: He was an independent producer like several other guys.
JE: Did he continue to do Eyes of Texas with you? Was he with it all the way through?
RM: He was the only one who was with it all the way through.
JE: Frank Dobbs went off to write movie scripts didn’t he?
RM: He did. He died, you know.
JE: Did he?
RM: Yes. It was only a couple of years ago.
JE: Did you hire Ron Stone away from Channel 11?
JE: That was a big deal at the time, wasn’t it?
RM: It was one that I did not particularly approve of.
JE: Why not?
RM: I had an opportunity to get somebody else.
JE: Bringing someone from outside?
RM: Yes. Harris thought I ought to get somebody with name recognition, already established. I was ________ a lot of opening _____________. It would break my heart if somebody decided to leave. ___________________.
JE: Do you remember the time that you did your news show with everyone running for mayor and the woman came in with a little toy track, cars running around it, and I asked her, Mrs. So and So, what is your . . . obviously you have a view about transportation. It was when they were going through the bus company, as to whether to go to rail or whatever _________ she got up to go show her toy track and got her cord wrapped around your neck. Do you remember that? It is something I will never forget.
RM: Just as well as I.
JE: She nearly choked you before we could grab her and make her sit back down. In all your career, what did you like best?
RM: Not knowing what was going to come next.
JE: And what did you like least?
RM: People who complained about having to work odd hours.
JE: Well, those two would go hand-in-hand, I would think. Did you have a 24 hour news staff?
RM: Not until way late. I had the 24 hour news staff in a sense that I had somebody on duty overnight who might be in a car or might be in the office. He was responsible for calling me if anything happened.
JE: O.K., you spent your whole career in Houston. Did Houston have anything to do with that?
RM: I always thought it was big enough for me.
JE: Well, it grew every day, I guess.
RM: Yes. I never looked on it as a stepping stone. I was happy to be here.
JE: Did you think Houston was a good news town?
RM: It was good to me.
JE: What made it that way?
RM: You could do just about anything. It did a lot of things at Channel 2 that had not been done before. We were the first one hour show. Channel 13 has a lock on that now but Channel 2 was essentially the first that started doing one hour shows at 6 o’clock, and that caused us to actually look into a lot of things that later on became accepted procedure by promoting stories down the line, especially that. For instance, nobody had ever put credits on the end of the news program until we were stuck with the problem of filling an hour every night. But we found out that was one of the ways that we could extend things and still make it look professional. We would take some video which was film, of course, we would take some film of the 2 or 3 top stories that we just had on the program and close the program with those pictures and the credits which made people happy who worked on the show – they got their names on the air – and made the show look a little more professional. A good idea which really just was _______ the time.
JE: Did you ever go extra, as it were? Break in?
RM: Yes. I had the authority to interrupt programs.
JE: Did you use it often?
RM: No. I used it only on _______ I could really justify it.
JE: Can you think of something that justified it?
RM: Well, it wasn’t car chases.
RM: I remember on one occasion, it was the Tower shootings at the University of Texas. We covered that, too. Again, it was Lee Tucker and _______________.
JE: Austin. He lived there. He killed his wife and mother there, as I recall. Would you do it all over again?
RM: I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.
JE: No other town, no other place?
RM: No. It seems to me . . . I still like Fort Worth.
JE: Where did you grow up in Fort Worth?
JE: But you never wanted to go back there to work?
JE: Could it compare to Houston as a news town?
RM: No. It is much better behaved. It is a much better behaved town.
JE: Well, I’d say you made your mark in this town.
RM: I didn’t make it anywhere else.
JE: Thanks a lot, Ray. It was fun talking to you.
RM: It has been a great ride.