The Old Philosopher

      Clint Formby passed away July 31, 2010 at the age of 86. His funeral service was held on the 62nd anniversary of KPAN's first day of broadcast, when his was the first voice on the AM station.

            Johnny Clinton Formby was born Dec. 6, 1923 at the family farmhouse in McAdoo, Texas to John and Willie Formby. It was hog killing day for the family, and an already busy day had the added excitement of the arrival of little Clint. He attended schools in Plainview and McAdoo and graduated from McAdoo High School in 1942, where he played basketball, tennis and was quarterback on the 6-man football team. He picked cotton on the family farm through the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, and also worked as a soda jerk. He turned 18 the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor .

         Clint began college at Texas Tech upon high school graduation, but then enlisted in the US Army. He served as staff sergeant and medic in US Army, attached to the 235th General Hospital in Marseille, France. Clint remained in Switzerland after the end of the war in April, 1945 and attended University of Switzerland in Basel .

          He returned stateside and re-enrolled at Texas Technological College, where he was a member of the Socii fraternity. He was elected president of the Texas Tech student body his senior year, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism in 1949. While at college, he worked during the summer of 1948 to help his uncle Marshall Formby construct KPAN AM in Hereford, working as a carpenter and painter. His was the first voice on the new radio station when it went on the air August 4, 1948. Marshall, 12 years older than Clint, was a former county judge and former state senator who went on the serve on the Texas Highway Commission and ran for governor in 1962, with Clint as his campaign manager.

While in college, he met Margaret Clark, who was the first Miss Texas Tech. They courted and were married September 16, 1950 in Van Horn, Margaret’s hometown. The young couple moved to Colorado City, where they rented a garage apartment from Mr. and Ms. George Mahon, the future US Congressman. He also helped put a radio station in Snyder on the air. They then moved to Hereford August 22, 1951 , where Clint went to work at KPAN and Margaret taught high school English and speech. Clint was the news reporter, advertising salesman, sometimes sports announcer and tornado chaser, soon becoming manager of the little station. Clint eventually replaced Marshall Formby’s original partner and the two men charted a radio path across Texas, eventually being involved in radio stations in Floydada, Tulia, Levelland, Andrews, Seminole, Tyler, Huntsville, Temple and Marshall. They operated each station with the same formula – community involvement, aggressive advertising sales, a strong role for broadcast journalism and fun for listeners.  In the 1950s he would ride the train from Hereford to Chicago to attend the yearly convention of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).

Clint also began a daily radio commentary in October, 1955 on KPAN called the “Day-by-Day Philosopher”, which was broadcast at 7:45am six days a week. “My little program”, as he called it, continued for nearly 55 years until the day before his death, with 17,160 consecutive broadcasts. Clint believed it is the longest-running radio broadcast by an individual in the United States. KPAN has twice received the Texas Association of Broadcasters' (TAB) Outstanding Radio Station award. During the period 1962-1972, KPAN received more TAB awards than any Texas radio or TV station. It is one of two Texas radio stations retained by same family ownership for over 60 years.

Clint became involved in the growing community of Hereford . He was a member of Jaycees and a past-president of the Kiwanis Club, where he also served as district lieutenant governor and was involved in chartering two new clubs in West Texas . He served as president of Deaf Smith Chamber of Commerce and received the group’s Citizen of the Year award in 1964. He received the West Texas Chamber of Commerce Good Neighbor Award. He was a member of First Baptist Church, where he taught the boys’ high school Sunday School class for several years. He also attended Fellowship of Believers Church. He received the Texas Communicator of the Year from the Southern Baptist Convention. He brought cable TV to Hereford, first only a few satellite channels but eventually the full spectrum, and was managing partner of Hereford Cablevision from 1975-2006. He was named Hereford’s Pioneer of the Year in 2006.

Clint served his alma mater in a number of capacities. He was a member of the University’s Board of Regents for 12 years and served as chairman. He was involved in the work and lobbying of the legislature to establish a medical school and school of law at Texas Tech. He served for years as a board member and then president of Texas Tech Ex-Students Association, now Texas Tech Alumni. He was named a Distinguished Alumnus of Texas Tech University. He served as a board member and then chairman of the Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock. He was a member of and then chairman of the Mass Communications Advisory Committee, and worked long and hard to have Mass Communications established as a separate school at Texas Tech. He was honored by being inducted into the Mass Communications Hall of Fame, received the Lifetime Support Award in 2001 and has a classroom named in his honor at the school.

          Clint was a leader in the broadcast industry at the state and national level. He was one of dozens of small-market radio owners who made the Texas Association of Broadcasters viable in the 1960s, and went on to serve on the board of directors and as president of TAB. He has been named both Broadcaster of the Year (1994) and Pioneer Broadcaster (1979) by that state organization. He also served as the small-market radio representative on the board of the National Association of Broadcasts, and was chairman of the NAB Radio Board. He served six years as a member of the corporate board of the Associated Press, and was president of Associated Press Broadcasters. He served 16 years as a board member for Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI), one of three major music-licensing firms in the United States. He also served for several years on the executive committee of BMI. He served as president of the Broadcast Education Foundation and as a board member of Texas Broadcast Education Foundation. He was an original board member of Texas Telecommunications Infrastructure board. He was inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame and Texas Panhandle Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame. Clint served on the KACV-TV Advisory Committee at the Amarillo College PBS station.

          Clint and Margaret made many close friends on those various boards, and also had the opportunity to travel across the globe. Trips included an AP trip to Castro’s Cuba and other trips to China, Japan, Canada Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean and virtually every major city in the United States . He loved to report those travels to his hometown audience on his daily program, which he taped in advance of any trip out-of-town.

          Clint was unique in several ways, a few of which can be quantified. He was the only person to ever appear on the cover of Texas Highways magazine, which set off a minor furor that Clint very much enjoyed. He was the only single person to have held the offices of Texas Tech student body president, Board of Regents chairman, and president of the Ex-Students Association.

          Clint was a dedicated Texas Tech sports fan and held season football tickets since the 1950s, first in section 106 then in section 6 at Jones Stadium. He actually lived and believed in the line from the Matador Song…..”Strive for honor, evermore, long live the Matador.” He loved everything red and black.

          Clint had insatiable curiosity and was a voracious reader, subscribing to four daily newspaper and numerous magazines and periodicals. He watched TV well into the night, and many of his daily radio programs were based on something he had seen or read or heard that deserved further discussion.

          Clint was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1998, but underwent radiation therapy and recovered and gave a running account of the disease and treatment on his radio show. His frank and open dialog resulted in two Texas Media Awards from the American Cancer Society in 1999. Ultimately another incurable cancer, multiple myeloma, was detected in 2005.

          Clint loved people and loved to hear their story and had a way of making anyone feel as if he were really, truly interested in their conversation – which he was. His daily trips to the local banks and post office highlighted his days in Hereford, when he could tell his latest travel story and catch up on the latest local gossip. He tirelessly promoted Hereford and West Texas to anyone and everyone he encountered in his travels.

          Clint’s wife Margaret was mother to their children and Clint’s main cheerleader. After the kids were grown, Margaret was instrumental in establishing the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center in Hereford, and served as its executive director until it moved to Fort Worth.  

          Clint’s son Chip has worked at KPAN since 1978 and became general manager in 1994. Since 2003, Clint, Chip and Chip’s sons Jonathan and Lane have all worked at the Hereford station.

          Survivors are his four children, Chip Formby of Hereford and wife Lisa, Ben Formby of New York City, Marshall Formby of San Antonio and wife Betty, and Scott Formby of New York City and wife Kathy; four grandchildren, Jonathan and Lane Formby of Hereford and Alison and Lauren Formby of San Antonio, and his aunt Sharleen Formby Rhodes of Plainview. He was preceded in death by his wife, his parents, and a daughter, Linda Kay.

 

 

 

    Clint Formby concluded his broadcast career with 17,160 consecutive programs of the Day-By-Day Philosopher , a daily commentary at 7:45am that was first broadcast on KPAN-AM October 10, 1955. It ended July 30, 2010, the day before he passed away at age 86. It is the longest-running daily radio broadcast by an individual in America. The Old Philosopher was featured on Texas Country Reporter in the fall of 2009, and on NBC's TODAY show December 29, 2007 (click below to view the segment).

                                           One Man Radio Show

 

 

Front-page article on November 30, 2006 - Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Radio's Old Philosopher

Station owner has longest-running one-man show


STAR-TELEGRAM STAFF WRITER

HEREFORD -- On the morning of the first fall freeze, folks in this small town in the Texas Panhandle tuned in to KPAN/860 AM on the radio dial.

A station announcer read the school lunch menus and sent out birthday greetings.

The station saluted its Good Neighbor of the Day.

At 7:45 a.m., after a message from Hereford Heritage Funeral Home, a familiar voice came on the air.

"Well-l-l hello there, and how are you?"

The signature greeting crackled over radios in homes and hospital rooms and pickups, across the flat eternity of the High Plains.

The longest running daily radio show by one person in America is broadcast county-wide and beyond, to rural communities like Dimmitt and Friona and Bovina, and can be heard as far south as Lubbock, 100 miles away.

The host's voice is friendly, unpretentious, gentlemanly, trustworthy, sincere.

If Texas could speak, it might sound like Clint Formby.

Many people in these parts have grown up listening to "The Old Philosopher."

Formby, 82, began broadcasting what he modestly calls "my little program" in October 1955.

He comes on six mornings a week and in 51 years he hasn't missed one day -- about 16,000 consecutive shows.

Formby doesn't hold elected office but most everyone in town is familiar with him and greets him as the "morning mayor."

Longtime friends jokingly marvel that KPAN's owner is the only person they know who not only has a profound thought every day but also an ego big enough to want to share it with the world.

The Chamber of Commerce presents honored residents with its Bull Chip Award -- a pasture pie mounted on a plaque.

"Clint earned it," County Judge Tom Simons said, grinning.

"The nice thing about radio," the judge reminds Formby, "is you can turn it off."

In truth, Simons is a regular listener of his friend's show and is himself heard on KPAN as the game announcer for the Hereford High School football team, which lost in the Class 4A playoffs this past weekend.

Formby is as old-fashioned, and reliable, as Epsom salts. He still writes his scripts on a manual typewriter.

His five-minute commentaries run the gamut, ranging from dandelions to outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Formby asks listeners, "When should Christmas season start?" He chides residents who park vehicles on their front lawns. His program staged a Most Beautiful Alley contest, which drew 18 entries, and he used his platform to help raise $89,000 in scholarships for local students to attend the Hereford campus of Amarillo College.

Once a week he talks politics. Little misses his watchful eye.

Ever seen that bumper sticker: "It Doesn't Count If You Haven't Been Caught"? ... That's one of the problems in our society today. In some categories of big business and even in government, that philosophy has caused us grief beyond belief. It is carrying over more and more to our young people.

Formby shares bad jokes and occasionally recites poetry -- not Keats.

The codfish lays 10,000 eggs

The homely hen lays one

The codfish never cackles

To tell you when she's done

And so we scorn the codfish

While the humble hen we prize

It only goes to show you

That it pays to advertise

Formby spent a recent program sharing memories of his grandfather in East Texas who knew the best way to enjoy the delights of sorghum molasses with breakfast.

In Deaf Smith County, people listen. A fretful mother called Formby and asked how he expects parents to teach their children table manners when he is on the radio instructing youngsters to poke a hole in a biscuit, using a finger, and fill it with the sweet sticky syrup.

The smell of money

Cattle are to Hereford what chocolate is to Hershey, Pa.

The town has about 15,000 residents, and there are about 3.5 million cows within a 100-mile radius.

Hereford High's sports teams are called the Whitefaces (and Lady Whitefaces), a nickname for white-faced Hereford cows. The local newspaper is the Hereford Brand.

That distinctive aroma from feedlots and dairies is the smell of big money. Hereford is the "Saudi Arabia of cow manure," proclaimed Todd Carter, president of a Dallas-based company that is building a plant here that will gasify 1 billion pounds of manure each year to process corn into ethanol fuel.

Don Cumpton is director of the Hereford Economic Development Corp. and a regular KPAN listener.

"It's a godsend for us," Cumpton said of the ethanol plant as he sat in Formby's office. One cow, he informed a visitor, produces 5 1/2 pounds of manure daily. Cumpton let that fact sink in. "Do the math," he said, smiling.

Formby agrees that the operation will boost Hereford's economy and help alleviate a monumental waste problem, but he reminded his listeners that when the plant begins operation next year, 300 or more truckloads of manure will be rumbling through town every day. That's a reality. Something, he said, that folks should think about.

Ranchers frowned at Formby's warning, but the radio host isn't hesitant to take an unpopular stand.

Some assume that Formby is a Republican. Others accuse him of being a "damn" Democrat. He has even been called a Presbyterian.

On this clear chilly morning, Formby shared the results of an 8-year study showing that Baptists tend to be fatter than other believers. Formby said that, according to a story published in the Baptist Standard news journal, the study by Purdue University also revealed that women who watched religious television or listened to religious radio weighed more than those who attended church.

"Kyle," Formby said , "are you listening?"

Kyle Struen is pastor of Hereford's First Baptist Church.

"I'm not sure what can be gleaned of this" study, Formby said, finally. "Well, time's up. We better get out of here."

The Old Philosopher signed off, smiling to himself.

Blessed with humor

KPAN made its debut in 1948. Formby's uncle, who owned the station, coined the slogan for his enterprise: "The only radio station in the world that gives a hoot about Hereford, Texas." Then a student at Texas Tech University, Formby read the station's first commercial. Western Auto offered a one-day $29.95 special on its "two-tube Truetone radio."

The nervous youth stumbled over the tongue twister.

Formby went to the business at noon and apologized profusely to the proprietor.

The store owner laughed. He had sold out of the advertised item by 10 o'clock that morning.

"Everybody who comes in," he told Formby, "wants to see the radio that ol' boy couldn't pronounce!"

Back then, Formby never dreamed that one day he would marry Margaret Clark -- Miss Texas Tech -- and later own six Texas radio stations, become chairman of the board of regents at his alma mater, and serve as president of the Associated Press Broadcasters and other professional broadcasting organizations.

He traveled around the world, dined at the White House and met six U.S. presidents.

"Clint has seen and done more during his life than any person I know," Simons said.

Friends kid Formby about his travelogues. One day a local attorney presented Formby with a free one-way bus ticket to Umbarger (pop. 327) -- a town 20 miles from Hereford. The only stipulation, the lawyer said, was that he couldn't talk about the adventure when he got back.

Fortunately, the broadcaster is blessed with a sense of humor. He was the victim of an elaborate and now legendary practical joke.

Years ago, the pastor of the Baptist church where Formby and his family worshipped traveled to Japan on a two-month mission. Rather than name an interim pastor, the clergyman selected members of his flock to occupy the pulpit on Sundays in his absence, and he posted the schedule on a bulletin board.

"Clint, you know you're preaching?" a friend remarked.

Formby rushed to the church. He scanned the list. To his horror, the pastor had picked him to give the sermon on Easter.

Formby had never preached, or wanted to, and so began an agonizing month of dread and worry and sleepless nights.

Meanwhile, unknown to Formby, a radio colleague in Midland printed and mailed 300 invitations -- as if Clint had sent them -- asking the recipients to join him in worship on Easter. "It was a nice way of saying 'Come hear me preach,'" Formby said. "Embarrassed me to death." The invites said a reception would follow, at Formby's residence.

One was sent to Washington, D.C.

Formby received a letter from then-Vice President Lyndon Johnson.

LBJ told Formby that he wanted to attend the Easter service but he didn't think his plane could land at the Hereford airport.

Somehow Formby faced his fears and delivered the sermon, before a packed house.

But he couldn't possibly host a reception for hundreds at his small home.

So immediately after church, as those still unaware of the joke went to the Formby address and knocked on the door, expecting punch and cookies, Formby and his family secretly checked in at the local Lucky U Motel. He spent the afternoon entertaining their four children by feeding quarters into a coin slot that activated the room's vibrating bed.

'Kiss your wife goodnight'

"Formby," colleagues ask, "when you gonna fire yourself?"

He has contemplated retirement, and if he stepped aside tomorrow, no one could accuse Clint Formby of being a quitter.

When he began his program, satellite radio disc jockey Howard Stern was 1 year old.

A World War II veteran and cancer survivor, Formby is wise enough to recognize the motivational value of his daily routine: awakening at 5:30 a.m., reading the morning papers, dressing in a coat and tie, picking up his mail at the post office, driving to the office. "Having things you look forward to, or facing things that have to be done, that's living," he said. "You need something to meet you, every day."

So he plans to keep typing on his old Underwood and sharing his observations and opinions with his neighbors as long as he believes that what he has to say is relevant and his program is not simply "filler" between birthday salutes and the farm and ranch report.

Recently, Formby received a speeding ticket.

The highway patrolman noticed the driver's birth date.

"You don't look that old," the officer remarked, handing Formby, a grandfather, his license. "What do you attribute that to?"

"Fast livin', fast drivin' and fast women -- if I can find 'em," came the reply.

In fact, the only woman in his life was a university queen -- his sweetheart, his bride, a lady.

Margaret Formby, who founded the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Hereford -- it's now in Fort Worth -- died unexpectedly three years ago.

As the lonely days passed after Margaret's funeral, and their home grew larger and emptier and seemed so quiet in her absence, Clint reflected on the sentimental journey of the life and love they shared for more than half a century.

She had given him a family, and so much more.

He thought of little things. The everyday things, simple routine acts of kindness that he took for granted and didn't fully appreciate at the time, as he knows he should have.

One morning in his solitude he sat at the microphone. He wanted -- needed -- to say something, and if his heartfelt words came off as sounding corny to listeners, well, he didn't mind.

Formby ended his program with a request that he now repeats once a week, every week, without fail.

"You men," Clint says, "remember to kiss your wife goodnight tonight."


David Casstevens, 817-390-7436 dcasstevens@star-telegram.com


 

The plaque at the door of the Clint Formby classroom at the Mass Comm building at Texas Tech University. Pictured with Clint is the Dean of the College of Mass Communications, Dr. Jerry Hudson.

 

Cover Photo, 1996                 Day One at KPAN - August 4, 1948

 

 

                                                    

    Clint@kpanradio.com   

             

 

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