Early TV pioneer, PR legend Steve Stephens dies at 90

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 764 views 

Steve Stephens, a golden-throated voice talent who made the transition from radio to TV in the 1950’s, has passed away at the age of 90. Stephens was a pioneer in early television in Arkansas and later became an influential public relations professional working for himself and later Stephens Inc.

He was a decorated Marine for his service in Korea and attained the rank of sergeant.

Stephens grew up in Newport, Arkansas and got his career start at a local radio station. His timing was impeccable as his broadcasting opportunities coincided with the new medium of television and the rise of rock-and-roll. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, Stephens got his break when he traveled to Little Rock with a popular band led by Sonny Burgess. The introductions made during that visit in 1957 led station KTHV to offer Stephens a job hosting an afternoon “dance party” show where local teenagers would come dance to the music that was sweeping the nation.

“Steve’s Show” gained a hugely popular local following and was nationally followed. He started the show about six months before the launch of “American Bandstand,” hosted by legendary Dick Clark for decades. “Steve’s Show” aired six days a week at its zenith and was on air from 1957-1961.

Stephens continued as an on-air personality as a weatherman for KTHV. The Encyclopedia of Arkansas noted he was the first TV weatherman in the state to use radar.

He did a three-year stint in a media relations role for U.S. Sen. John McClellan in Washington D.C. in the late 1960’s before returning to Arkansas to run his own public relations firm. In the 1980’s, he joined Stephens Inc. (no relation) serving as assistant to the chairman of the board, Jack Stephens, and director of communications for the financial services firm. He retired in 1998.

In addition to a number of charitable contributions through service and fundraising, Stephens returned to his radio roots after retirement. He can be heard voicing the iconic “Biography Arkansas” segments for NPR member station, KUAR.

Stephens was honored with several industry accolades. He was inducted into the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame in October 2003. In July 2018, he was selected for the Gold Circle by the Mid-America Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his contributions to broadcasting and media.

In 2010, Stephens was interviewed by TB&P’s Roby Brock as a follow-up to a magazine article about the early years of Arkansas television written by Suzi Parker. You can watch the video below.

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