Ken Tredwell

His time at the company began in 1946, just as Jefferson was taking over WBT from CBS. And over the next 15 years he expertly shaped the programming and image of WBT and WBTV.

The information, photos and artifacts on these pages were provided by Ken's son, Scott. Some of his memories of his dad are included behind the "Scott Recalls" tab.

People | Ken Tredwell

His full name was Kenneth I. Tredwell, Jr. He was born on October 1, 1919 in Whitneyville, Conn., and died on May 28, 1983 in San Francisco, Calif.

Ken grew up in New Rochelle, NY, where, in 1935, he was selected by the Standard-Star as sales-demonstration champion. That year, he "captured international high honors as sales-demonstration champion in Cincinnati, OH." Among other accomplishments, he was an Eagle Scout and was Lou Gehrig's paperboy.

Ken graduated from University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School of Finance, in 1941. Having been in the ROTC, he entered the service (8th Army Air Force) as an officer. He served in Special Services from 1941 to 1945, exiting as a Major, with a Bronze Star for meritorious service. He wrote speeches for, among others, Lt. General J. H. Doolittle, was published in the Stars and Stripes (the Army newspaper), coordinated a Victory Bond Drive, worked with Cecil Madden (BBC Executive Producer) for two years on the American Eagle program in Britain, doing "roving microphone" segments each Saturday. The Eagle was broadcast to the U.S. via the Mutual Broadcasting System.

In England, Ken met a California girl, Juanita (Nita) Bruton, who was an ambulance driver and War Orphans supervisor for the American Red Cross. Nita's flat was bombed out twice "over there."

Ken and Nita returned to the U.S. and were married on August 19, 1945, in Wareham, Mass. Her son, Scott, says, "Mom used to enjoy recollecting that the Brits would complain that Yanks were overpaid, oversexed and over there; the response was that the Brits were underpaid, undersexed and under Ike. They had dinner with Glenn Miller the night before his tragic flight."

After the war, Ken briefly worked as an announcer at WGTC radio in Greenville, NC, then was programming director at WTIK in Durham before joining WBT in 1946. In Charlotte, Ken and Nita began raising a family of two sons, Scott, born in 1946, and Steve in 1949.

He likely entered the company as WBT's program director. If not, he quickly ascended to that position, where he was very much a hands-on manager, creating and producing programs, even writing scripts.

Kenneth Johnson, the oldest "child" in the Johnson Family Singers, remembers:

[When he] came to WBT around 1946, I believe he was Program Director. What I remember most vividly was his writing the scripts for our Quaker Oats programs, broadcast on a regional network of CBS. He also was the writer-producer of the weekly program, "Fun By the Fireside."

When television came to Jefferson Standard Broadcasting, Ken moved to WBTV as its program manager. Bailey Hobgood, who was in a succession of WBT program directors after Ken left radio, recalls:

During my time as program director for radio, 1954-59, Bob Covington was executive officer for WBT and Ken Tredwell the same for WBTV (not sure about proper titles). This separation helped WBT at a time when radio was beginning to lose audience and money, and WBTV needed some steering as TV took off. Since I was with radio I did not have a great deal of contact with Ken but many of his ideas for TV were designed to share with radio. He was instrumental in bringing in The Harvesters gospel quartet, who became popular with shows on both radio and TV. He also had the idea for "People's Playhouse," a series for radio only, which was written and directed by Bob White, hired to do the show on a free lance basis. I don't recall much success with the Playhouse but at least it was different from other radio in Charlotte at the time.

I recall that Ken, Bob Rierson (WBTV production manager) and I were mainly responsible for bringing Loonis McGlohon on staff as music librarian and talent on both stations. Ken was always upbeat, passionate and enthusiastic about his work. He was an idea man and was never afraid to try something new. I remember Ken caring about radio and doing what he could to help us. I had a lot of respect for Ken and enjoyed my relationship with him.

In 1953 Ken was made a vice-president at Jefferson Standard Broadcasting. During his tenure he was active in Charlotte's Executive Club, Chamber of Commerce, United Community Services, Travelers Aid Society, Rotary Club, Red Cross and Charlotte Symphony. He was the emcee for the 1955 dedication of Ovens Auditorium. He served for a time as director of Television Stations, Inc., a regional association of broadcasters.

After 15 years, in 1961, Ken left Jefferson and went to Wachovia Bank, Winston-Salem, as V/P-Advertising, where he stayed until 1971. From Kenneth Johnson:

The last time I saw Ken was in the Reynolds Building, Winston-Salem, where he was then employed. A genial, happy fellow, he would usually greet me by singing the theme song for our [Johnson Family] program, "When the family gets together 'round the old piano, the sound of voices singing fills the air ...."

The couple left North Carolina and lived in Phoenix, Arizona, where Ken worked for an automotive fuel additive company. Then they moved to the San Francisco area, where he worked for several years at an executive placement agency. In 1983 Ken died of colon cancer at 63, the same age as his father at his death. Nita lived to age 95, and passed in 2007. They left behind two sons, three grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

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    A WBT group entertains at the Ocean Forest Hotel, Myrtle Beach. Clarence Etters sits at the organ; Mr. & Mrs. Larry Walker at the piano. In rear, third from left is Arthur Smith. At right, the Johnson Family Singers. Circa 1949.
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    Prepping for a live interview of author Harry Golden at his home on Elizabeth Avenue, Charlotte. It's for Ed Murrow's Person To Person program. Ed would sit in front of a large screen in his New York studio and talk to celebrities and other worthies in far-flung places. That may be a CBS producer with Harry.
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    Company's upper managers with their wives. From left, the men are Robert Covington, Charles Crutchfield, Larry Walker and Marvin Minor.
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    At times it fell upon Ken to usher celebrities around the stations and the city. Here he says hello or goodbye to humorist Herb Shriner at Douglas Airport. Remember those days? When just about anyone could walk right up to the planes?
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    Ken and General Manager Charles Crutchfield (right) confer with Warren Hull, emcee of the enormously popular CBS morning show Strike It Rich.
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    Some lucky lady has struck it rich. Warren gives her a check. Was that day's episode broadcast from Charlotte?
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    Herb Shriner and some now-forgotten songstress or actress pose with Ken for the obligatory "beside the WBTV camera" photo.
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    Marshal Dillon (James Arness) gets the drop on Tom Cookerly (right). Looking on are, from left, Bob Rierson, unknown, Ken Tredwell, and Wally Jorgenson. The unidentified man is likely a Darlington Raceway official. Arness was the Darlington 500's Grand Marshal that year. Circa 1958.
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    Upper management. Seated: Robert Covington, Tom Howard, Ken Tredwell. Standing: Unidentified, Wally Jorgenson
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    Ken at one of his many speaking or emceeing engagements.
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    Ken and Bob Covington, right, join Doug Mayes on a discussion program. Could they be announcing a new physical expansion or program change?
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    Young Scott Tredwell delivers the news.
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    Tom Cookerly and family. Tom was in sales and eventually became WBTV's general manager.
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    Buck Timberlake and his family on a beach vacation.
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    Ken often brought celebrities home to meet his family. Here, sons Scott, left, and Steve enjoy the thrill of their young lives.
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    Ronald Reagan, in one of several visits to the station, is chatting with Doug Mayes. Man at right is unidentified.
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    The setting is unfamiliar. Several Jefferson Standard people are present, with many community leaders. That's Larry Walker at front center in the dark suit. Ken is to his right. On the hill, the second man from left is Wally Jorgenson.
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    Pool party at the Tredwell manse. Standing at left is Fuzzy Prevatte. The men on the wall are Frank Bateman, Jack Burney, unknown, Nat Tucker, Paul Marion and Ken Tredwell. Norman Prevatte sits on the pool's edge. In the water are Bob Rierson and Bill Melson.
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    Ken emceeing some long-forgotten event.
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    New Years Eve 1954 in New Orleans. Nita and Ken with "Allen Jackson." He may be the correspondent who anchored the D-Day coverage for CBS Radio in 1944, who Ken may have met during the war. Jackson also anchored CBS Radio's coverage of both Kennedy assassinations in the 60's.



I've enjoyed perusing your btmemories site and refreshing my memories of the events and personalities that made WBTV a part of many lives during the "golden age" of television.

Scott TredwellRalph Smith lived in our neighborhood (Burtonwood - past East Mecklenburg HS on Old Monroe Road); many WBTV staff attended pool parties at our home; Clyde McLean, his wife + his great Danes, would visit us each Christmas Eve to assemble our train tracks around the tree (none of our Tredwell branch had a smidgen of mechanical aptitude); and I generally "sold" more raffle tickets during my early school years as my dad must have sold them to everyone at the station.

My mom was born in Saltillo, Mississippi—her family relocated to Culver City, California when she was a pre-teen and she graduated from the University of Redlands.  She also lived in Palo Alto, CA before going to England, with the ARC.

A memory: when my wife and I visited Mom and Dad in the late 70s, they took us to a play, The Kingfisher, with Rex Harrison and Claudette Colbert—reinforcing my perception that San Francisco had even more cultural opportunities than Winston-Salem!

Phenomenal memory: Dad remembered names of people he had met once and hadn't seen for 20 years.  He helped me with an "impossible" geometry problem in 1962—a subject he hadn't visited since 1936.

We lived in Burtonwood, a 70+ acre development next to East Mecklenburg High School that my folks co-developed starting in 1954. The last acre lot sold in the 70s for more than they paid for the whole shebang.

Robert Raiford has a story he has told on the air about how he and other pranksters at WBTV "appropriated" from the grounds and relocated to our yard a sun dial, then anonymously called the police to report its possible whereabouts.  Hilarity ensued.  My brother and I had lunch with Mr. Raiford in February of 2010, where he regaled us with BT stories.

We've saved copy of an 1806 London Times that my folks brought back from England, featuring the funeral of Lord Nelson & sarcophagus... it had been used to wrap meat during paper shortages in London.

Hopefully, my son will appreciate his grandfather's accomplishments and his life.

Here are memories from a few of his former employees...

Nat Tucker

Ken was an enthusiastic person with a great sense of humor. He was a good leader and was a people person. His meetings were always interesting and he displayed a trust in his subordinates.

Betty Johnson

I remember Ken and thought he was so professional, quick, inventive and all with a smile. He attended my 16th birthday and I think we have a picture of that. Tell Scott he can be more than proud.

Doug Bell

In 1956 Ken was the program manager at One Jefferson Place. One night he fired Bob Raiford after Bob disobeyed after being told not to talk on his WBT show about Nat King Cole being attacked by a group of white men while performing in Birmingham, Alabama. Bob was removed from the air that night.

I was the TV booth announcer for one of the games in Frank McGuire's 1957 UNC championship series. During the game Ken called me on the phone, saying I had failed to mention American Commercial Bank as a sponsor. He was upset; I think he was at a party of the bankers. I told him I did indeed announce the list of sponsors, including the bank. Norman Prevatte, the director in the booth upstairs, assured Ken the bank was named, because he had the slides changed for each sponsor, and I had spoken the sponsor's name, or he would not have changed slides. Wade Lawrence, the slide projectionist, and the others in the control room verified American Commercial's name had been spoken.

The next Monday morning, Ken came to the radio program director's office and told me he needed to speak with me. I went to his office and he just had some happy talk—never mentioned the call of Saturday night. He was most gracious, and even more friendly after that. I could only think he was embarrassed, and that was his way of an apology.

One evening I was at home and heard the screech of automobile tires. I ran out and one of Ken's boys had been hit by a car. I ran to Ken's house to tell him. At first he did not seem to know what I had said, then he dashed to the corner.

Don McDaniel

Ken was one of the suits during that time frame of my employment at BT and I didn't have much contact with the big men in the upstairs offices in the Wilder Building.

However a couple of things still vividly stick in my mind concerning Ken. In my early days of employment Ken was in charge of the production department and the floor crew, of which I was a member. And oh boy were we making the big bucks? I was probably making at least fifty dollars a week with overtime. Anyway Ken had just built a new house in one of the fancy neighborhoods of Charlotte and he had a little social gathering for the crew. Needless to say I was impressed. Hey, I was impressed by a lot of things in those days. To this day, for some reason, the price tag of his house sticks in my mind. Wow! Forty grand. Jeez, how could anyone afford that kind of palace?

I probably don't have to tell you, but during the early days the hired hands were exploited somewhat. Even back then the suits always kept an eye out to cut costs. Just like today. And just like always the cost cutting starts at the lowest level.

Some time after we had moved to the new building on Morehead Street, I was promoted to a higher position on the crew with the whopping salary of Seventy-Five dollars per week. This meant I was classified as a salaried professional. And know what that meant? You guessed it. A fixed weekly pay check for all the hours I could work, and believe me they were plentiful. No OT. To this day I can still recall standing in the side door lobby were, if you recall, we hung around when we had downtime. Well Ken came down the stairs and walked over to me and said "Well, Don, I understand you hit the jackpot. Congratulations."

Luckily for me, soon after that the labor relations people got wind of some of the goings on on Fulfillment Hill and put the squash on it. Then I was really in the big bucks.

I still look back on those days with great gratitude. No sour grapes here. It was the best place in the world to work in those days. We were all learning the new TV business, even the suits.

Ken had a persuasive personality and there is documentation that proves it. We've compiled a collection that begins with his newsboy accomplishments as his paper's star carrier. There's a letter from the New Haven newspaper editor attesting to his skills, and a photo of an impressive display in a Liggett's drug store window.

In his early twenties, after graduating from a prestigious university, Ken enlisted in the Army Air Force and soon won a coveted assignment working with the BBC in London, and with many famous entertainers and American generals . You'll see a photo of him interviewing troops; letters from Cecil Madden, his producer of the American Eagle radio show, on which Ken conducted interviews; and, issued at the end of the war in Europe, a souvenir roster and photo of all those who worked or appeared on the show.

We skip a few years, seven in fact, and find Ken in action at WBTV. With an eye toward creating a new television show, he reached out to a little known comic named Andy Griffith. You'll read a couple of letters from early 1953 pertaining to what might have been. The prospect of there being a WBTV show with Griffith may have died with the release a few months later of a 45-rpm recording called "What It Was, Was Football" that would propel Andy to stardom.

On a sad note...

In the early 1980's, long after Ken had left WBTV, and had moved from Winston-Salem to Arizona and beyond, his old friend and producer, Sir Cecil Madden, began working on a memoir about his war years at the BBC. The aging Madden needed to find Ken, who was so vitally involved in the Eagle, to round out his stories, so he began a search for him in America. We've scanned some of the letters and news columns written about that long search.

Ken was found, of course, in California, but unfortunately was in the final stage of his cancer. He died before a reunion of the two friends could occur. You'll read a story in the Charlotte Observer of Ken's death, and a Madden letter to the widowed Juanita some months later.

View the documents here.