Nebraska Public Media and Ron Hull

Public Broadcasting Pioneers

Sometimes, words like “legend” and “pioneer” get thrown around way too much.

That is not the case for Ron Hull and his place in the history of public broadcasting in Nebraska.

For starters, our organization was founded in 1954, making it the ninth-oldest public station in the nation. For all but the first year of our history, Ron Hull was a moving force behind the network’s success.

The outline is deceptively simple. Starting in 1955 as a producer-director, Ron was still active as a Senior Advisor until the time of his passing in 2023.  

But that’s only part of the story. From those early years to the remarkable accomplishments of his life, public broadcasting in Nebraska was a labor of love, as Ron Hull was quick to point out.

He's told the behind-the-scenes story of how the fledgling television network, without a swimming pool in sight, came to broadcast some of the state’s first-ever televised YWCA swimming lessons—using an ironing board Ron himself had painted black, a fish tank to give the illusion of waves, and some subtle “limbo lighting” designed to draw attention away from the background and exclusively to the nine-year-old swimming student.

He's regaled listeners with tales of Nebraskans who went on to symbolize the state to the far greater world. Their names may or may not be popularly associated with the Cornhusker State, but they trace their roots here nonetheless.

The list includes actors and authors and entertainers who left their mark on the world in remarkable ways. Many of them became his friends, and were the subjects of his intense, far-ranging and always engaging interviews.

Mari Sandoz, for example, wrote stories that brought the Nebraska Sandhills and its people to life for audiences far and wide. Ron Hull helped make the author of Old Jules better known and more accessible to all Nebraskans.

Hull also interviewed John G. Neihardt, Nebraska poet laureate, who gave voice to a Native spirit through the widely read and admired Black Elk Speaks.

And, he shared the studio with acclaimed entertainers like Dick Cavett and Sandy Dennis, whose talents, nurtured in Nebraska, went on to touch lives everywhere.  

It wasn’t only native sons and daughters who fell prey to Ron’s infectious intellectual curiosity and sense of engagement. He counted among his most memorable moments his interviews with Margaret Mead, George McGovern and Vivian Vance, and his early production work with Walter Cronkite and Yehudi Menuhin.

Hull's legacy at the network also included directing programming for more than 30 years—in between his service in Washington, D.C. at both CPB and PBS, and stints in Vietnam, where he helped bring television to that war-torn nation, and Taiwan, where he taught as a Fulbright scholar.

With the same vitality that defined his early days, Ron Hull continued to leave his mark on the network. In 2012, his dedication, and the reverence Nebraskans hold for Ron, helped bring the $25 million Inspire Nebraska Campaign to a successful close. That same year his autobiography, Backstage, Stories from My Life in Public Television, was published, giving color and depth to the history of public broadcasting—and to Nebraska’s pioneering role in that remarkable endeavor.

Together, with our founder Jack McBride, Ron Hull and others paved the way for some of the most talented writers, producers, videographers, audio engineers, and journalists who have served not only Nebraska, but the nation as well. Ron would also tell you that none of this would have been possible without the support of viewers like you.
Thank you!

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