Friday, December 06, 2013

Frank W. Mayborn: Mogul

In 1954 Frank Willis Mayborn owned 85% of KTEM-AM and KTEM-FM in Temple, Texas and also was 75% owner of WMAK-AM Nashville, Tenn. (The minority shareholder was the mysterious C.A. Shultz) That does not even include his properties in Television and and newspapers. That picture above this paragraph, that is what a media mogul looked like in 1950. He's also the reason that Lyndon B. Johnson was the 36th president of the United States. So give me a moment and I'll tie all that together.

Frank Mayborn was born in Ohio in 1903. He was born to money and media power, son of  Ward Mayborn, a executive at the E.W. Scripps newspaper conglomerate. Frank was raised in Denver and then Dallas suburbs and attended school at University of Colorado at Boulder. Even in high school little Frank was working at news papers: Dallas Dispatch, Dallas Morning News, Denver Post...etc. Then he became a publisher in his own right. He purchased the Telegram Publishing Company in Temple in 1929. Frank purchased the Sherman Democrat in 1945, the Killeen Herald in 1952 and the Taylor Press in 1959.

Broadcasting started in the middle of all that.  It's survival in the great depression piques his interest in braodcasting and he started Bell Broadcasting. In 1936, he started radio station 1400 KTEM-AM  in Temple, possibly to pair with his stake in Telegram Publishing. He began pursuing an FM license in 1944.  The 180 foot Am tower sat north of Temple, Texas alone until 1947 when it relocated to a 400-foot self-supporting structure what also held the FM radiator for KTEM-FM.

Mayborn got politically active around then and simultaneously began building a media empire. He joined the staff of General Eisenhower as an assistant to the chief of the U.S. public relations office. In 1945, he founded 1300 WMAK-AM in Nashville, Tennessee. The FM station would not be successful but the politics would be. In 1946, Mayborn was elected to the Texas Democratic State Central Committee. He'd made some very powerful friends in Texas.

While on the committee, he cast a vote that had far reaching repercussions. In 1948, W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel was retiring from the U.S. Senate. After a disputatious Democratic primary, Coke Stevenson had won the primary, but lacked a majority of votes. A run off was held between Lyndon Johnson and Stevenson but it got dirty and Johnson's campaign was accused of fraud. If any of the rumors are to be believed, he was guilty as hell.

Eighty-seven primary votes were in dispute. A state committee was convened to declare a winner. The committee split 28 to 28, Stevenson vs. Johnson. Stevenson has won the popular vote in the first election but he was behind by 87 votes in the run-off. Mayborn was away on a business trip to Nashville, working out of WMAK. He was summoned back to Texas to vote for Johnson. It was Johnson's second attempt at the Senate. Had he failed again, he'd have been banished back to the House of representatives. Instead he became minority leader, and in 1960 Vice President beside JFK, and then president after his assassination in Texas... Hmmmm

Mayborn remained active in politics for the rest of his life but backed out of broadcasting. He did live long enough  to see WMAK stained forever when in 1978, it flipped to a disco format and was known as "Majik 13." Oh the horror.  Disco fizzled and the station went oldies in 1980, On June 22, 1982, it became WLUY, "Lucky 13" airing a tepid AC format. The station went dark in 1983. Later it flipped to christian satellite programming under the ownership of F. W. Robbert. KTEM remains a solid news talker much the way he left it.  Mayborn died in 1987.