Death of Broadcasting Pioneer
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 Broadcasters 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:
1972 - KGMO 100.7 FM, Cape Girardeau, MO
1972 - KAPE 1550 AM, Cape Girardeau, MO
1996 - KYRX 97.3 FM, Cape Girardeau, MO
1996 - KREZ 104.7 FM, Cape Girardeau, MO
2002 - WKIB 96.5 FM, Cape Girardeau, MO
1973 - WMIX 940 AM, Mount Vernon, IL
1973 - WMIX 94.1 FM, Mount Vernon, IL
1979 - KOKX 95.3 FM, Keokuk, IA
1979 - KOKX 1310 AM, Keokuk, IA
2001 - KRNQ 96.3 FM, Keokuk, IA
2001 - WCEZ 93.9 FM, Keokuk, IA
1996 - KBXB 97.9 FM, Sikeston, MO
1996 - KRHW 1520 AM, Sikeston, MO
2001 - KBHI 107.1 FM, Sikeston, MO
1997 - WZZL 106.7 FM, Paducah, KY
1997 - WREZ 105.5 FM, Paducah, KY
1997 - WMOK 920 AM, Metropolis, IL
1998 - WRXX 95.3 FM, Centralia, IL
1998 - WILY 1210 AM, Centralia, IL
1998 - WSDR 1240 AM, Sterling, IL
1998 - WSSQ 94.3 FM, Sterling, IL
1998 - WZZT 102.7 FM, Sterling, IL
2004 - WEBQ 102.3 FM, Harrisburg, IL
2004 - WEBQ 1240 AM, Harrisburg, IL
2005 - KJXX 1170 AM, Jackson, MO
2006 - WRUL 97.3 FM, Carmi, IL
2006 - WROY 1460 AM, Carmi, IL
2006 - WGKY 95.9 FM, Wickliffe, KY
2006 - WYNG 94.9 FM, Mt. Carmel, IL
2007 - WDDD 107.3 FM, Marion, IL
2007 - WTAO 92.7 FM, Marion, IL
2007 - WFRX 1300 AM, Marion, IL
2007 - WVZA 105.1 FM, Marion, IL
2007 - WHET 97.7 FM, Marion, IL
2009 - WVMC 1360 AM, Mt. Carmel, IL
1972 - WDTV, Weston-Clarksburg, WV
2005 - Channel 22 LPTV, Clarksburg, WV
2006 - Channel 20 LPTV, Elkins, WV
2006 - First Alert Weather, Bridgeport, WV
2006 - WDCI 104.1 FM, Bridgeport, WV
2007 - Channel 21 LPTV, Clarksburg, WV
2007 - WVFX, Clarksburg, WV
2007 - CW3, Clarksburg, WV
WDHS TV, Iron Mountain, MI
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.
Withers Broadcasting Companies are known throughout the world as a leading media operation four television stations and 30 radio stations in the United States.