Area broadcast pioneer dies

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Herb Taylor, a pioneer in television broadcasting who helped start KRCU radio at Southeast Missouri State University nearly 30 years ago, was remembered by colleagues Monday as a natural performer who loved literature and life.

Taylor died Friday at his home in Cape Girardeau at the age of 75.

He secured the broadcast license for KRCU and helped launch the radio and television programs at Southeast. He taught numerous broadcasting classes at the Cape Girardeau school from 1975 to 1990. Students remember Taylor's fondness for snuff and more importantly his classroom enthusiasm.

"He had a grasp of media," said Jim Riley, a former student of Taylor's. "He corresponded with Marshall McCluhan, the great media philosopher of the century."

Taylor was involved with the earliest television broadcasts in Minnesota. When he was 23, he wrote and hosted three hours of live television broadcasts every weekday, Riley said, recounting the stories he heard from his mentor.

"He would just go to work with a couple of props and outlines and just do it, and that included the commercials," Riley said.

"He was a natural performer," said Riley. "There was a time when he was the most famous person in Minnesota."

The famed newscaster Walter Cronkite at one point asked Taylor to move to New York to "help us define the future of television."

Riley said Taylor turned down the offer for family reasons.

Taylor, along with Riley and two other former students, founded Red Letter Communications, an advertising agency, in Cape Girardeau in 1980. He provided the creative direction in the company's early years, served as chief copywriter from 1990 to 1995 and was creative director emeritus at the time of his death. The company has become a multimillion-dollar advertising firm.

In recent years, Taylor's Cape Girardeau home had become "something of a warehouse for his immense writings and rare books," Riley said, adding that Taylor had a 1,200-volume library.

"He was better read than anybody I have ever been associated with," he said.

Taylor was educated about art, wrote poetry and was a lifelong student of religion. "He had a deep and unwavering faith," Riley said.

Taylor served as KRCU's first general manager, helping to put it on the air in March 1976. Even after retiring from Southeast in 1990, he helped out with the now Public Radio station's fund-raising membership drives.

"He had a very creative mind," said Dan Woods, the FM station's current general manager.

"He was the type of person that inspired you to pursue your dreams," said Clint Hasse, a former student who is now sales manager at radio station KMOX in St. Louis.

Hasse said Taylor captivated students and gave them hands-on experience in radio. "It was a three-ring circus. You never knew what was going to happen," he said.

Visitation will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. today at Ford and Sons Sprigg Street Chapel. The funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the funeral home.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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