Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Bombing of KPFT

KPFT was founded by journalist Larry Lee, who convinced Pacifica Radio to establish an independent radio station in Houston, TX. His dream became a reality in March of 1970. In that same year, KPFT became the first, second and only radio station in the United States to have its transmitter bombed by terrorists. More here

The first sound to emanate from 90.1 FM in Houston was the song Here Comes The Sun from the then-brand-new Beatles album, Abbey Road. About two months later on May 12 members of the KKK blew up the KPFT transmitter, and the station was off the air for weeks.
Several months after completing repairs and returning to the air, the transmitter was bombed a second time! The October 6th bombing caused much more extensive damage. The cost of the damage was estimated to be about $35,000 —that's $222,000 in today's money adjusted for inflation. KPFT was off the air for more than three months. They resumed broadcasting on Wednesday, January 20th, 1971. A guard of armed police surrounded the station. They interviewed the mayor and the chief of police who both sided with the KKK, questioning their right to broadcast, and accusing them of airing obscene records.  Arlo Guthrie performed live in studio opining his set with Alice's Restaurant. This was the song that they had been playing when the October bombers struck.  Guthrie stepped up to the mic and said:
"So I was sitting in West Palm Beach yesterday, —this is in Florida— and I said "Wow, I'm gonna go over to Houston. What am I going to do there?" I mean maybe somebody will bomb me.. I didn't have any songs about bombs, or nothing like that, so I had to write one. I'd like you to sing it with me..."

A decade later, the KKK's Grand Wizard claimed that his greatest act "was engineering the bombing of a left-wing radio station," hinting none-too-subtly at KPFT. In 1977 bomber Jimmy Dale Hutto was ratted out by FBI informant Russell Rector. Russ has been in the witness protection program since the bombing because the KKK was pretty upset about his informing. Ultimately a whole quartet were indicted: Louis R. Beam Jr., a 24 year old salesman; Peter Lout Jr., a 26 year-old construction worker; Jimmy Dale Hutto a 24 year old chemical worker, and Paul William Moratto a 24 year old electrician. Hutto for his part was arrested in February by the FBI as he was driving toward California with Moratto. His intention was to dynamite more Pacifica radio stations.

Despite the actions of these right-wing terrorists, The Pacifica Network grew to five stations: KPFA in Berkeley, KPFK in Los Angeles, WBAI in New York, WPFW in Washington, and KPFT in Houston. Until 1983 it also included KRAB in Seattle. More here.


  1. Anonymous7:55 PM

    I have been on the air at KPFT for twenty years now. I am proud of our station and our history. There is a fragment of the bombed transmitter in our building. It's on the landing half-way up the stairs.

    Thanks for the article and spreading the word about KPFT.

    Jay Lee
    Technology Bytes Radio

  2. Gavan Duffy4:43 AM

    I was associated with KPFT from 1970 to 1976. The bomber, Jimmy Dale Hutto, was also infiltrating SDS, the KKK, and the OCAW (Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers). No one asks, "for whom?"

    By the way, after considerable media pressure on the FBI, Hutto was arrested on Interstate 10 -- on his way to blow up the KPFK transmitter.

    Your post implies that KPFT was the first of the five Pacifica station. It is actually the fourth. Only WPFW is younger.

  3. When I re-read stories like this I realize that American conservatism has a 30+ year history of terrorism.

  4. Correction: KRAB, Seattle was initially privately owned by Lorenzo Milam. Once the FCC approved transfer, he gave it to the Jack Straw Memorial Foundation (a non-profit corporation). KRAB occasionally exchanged programs, via tape, with KPFA, KPFK, and WBAI, but KRAB was never part of the Pacifica network.