Church, Arthur B. (Arthur Burdette) (1896-1978)
- Existence: 1896 - 1978
A broadcasting pioneer, Arthur B. Church owned and operated KMBC radio and television stations in Kansas City, Missouri from the 1920s through the late 1950s. Church was also the creative force behind several syndicated radio shows including the Brush Creek Follies, the Texas Rangers and Phenomenon.
Arthur B. Church began his involvement with radio in 1913 while attending commercial radio courses between college terms. In 1914 Church helped create 9WU, an experimental wireless "ham" station at Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa. While advertising radio parts on 9WU, Church became one of the first to use radio to advertise merchandise. Having enlisted in the U.S. Signal Corps in 1918, Church was stationed at Leavenworth, Kansas, where he taught telegraphy. Shortly after the war, Church organized the Central Radio Company and the Central Radio School. The Central Radio School began to operate station 9 AXJ, which in 1922 became WPE, the first broadcasting studio in the Midwest.
In 1923 the station was sold to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and the station was renamed with the call letters KFIX, which would later become KLDS. In cooperation with the Independence RLDS Church, he was instrumental in creating the new KLDS radio station on the premises of the Stone Church in Independence, Missouri. Here he worked closely with Ken Krahl and Ammon Ray Moler, with whom he would later work closely at KMBC. By 1926 he was a member of the National Association of Broadcasters. While working closely with the organization, he was able to do committee work with radio pioneer David Sarnoff, then general manager of RCA. In 1927 KLDS Broadcasting Company became the Midland Broadcasting Company and call letters KMBC were granted for commercial use.
KMBC joined CBS in 1928 as the 16th affiliated station. The station moved to the eleventh floor of the Pickwick Hotel in 1930. In 1941, the radio towers were destroyed by a 73-mile windstorm. KMBC became "team-mate" with Kansas City station KFRM in 1947. In 1951, the KMBC building opened at 11th and Central in Kansas City, Missouri. The building housed a 2600-seat TV playhouse where programs such as the Brush Creek Follies could be viewed by the public.
The structure and operations of KMBC were to provide an example for the radio industry. Church began a massive and ambitious staffing operation for KMBC, including such items as a mobile news unit, a farm department, a music director and librarian, a fully-staffed home economics department and a publicity department.
Church's original programming gained national prominence. Phenomenon: Electrifying History was sponsored by various power and light companies and was syndicated nationally. The Texas Rangers were sponsored nationally and appeared in several Republic Pictures films. Church recorded hundreds of Texas Rangers selections; Arthur B. Church Productions was created in order to handle the recording service. The Brush Creek Follies, a barn dance show, was an immensely popular program which ran Saturday nights on KMBC for over twenty years. In 1939 Church organized the KMBC Farm Service Department, an experimental farm operation, and appointed Phil Evans Farm Service Director. During World War II, Church’s Midland Radio Schools taught radio communication skills. Many radio personalities began their careers at KMBC, including John Cameron Swayze, Ted Malone, Walter Cronkite and Caroline Ellis.
Arthur B. Church died at age 82 on September 22, 1978. In a eulogy Edward P. Shurick, a protege of Church, commended Church's originality in programming and called KMBC "a model for the industry."