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John Gillin, Jr.


John J. Gillin, Jr. was in broadcasting for more than a quarter of a century, much of that as point man for WOW where he rose from announcer to president.

Gillin had landed his first commercial radio job in Chicago just two years before coming to Omaha. He joined WOW in 1929 as a part-time announcer while attending Creighton University Law School. Like many entering radio in the day, Gillin was a showman, a vocalist with an acting background. He performed in dramatic roles with the Creighton University players.

Gillin rose up the ranks quickly. He was WOW’s general manager by 1935 and guided the station through a major expansion into new modern studios and a new transmitter site. When the FCC allocated FM frequencies for the start of commercial service, WOW Manager Gillin was the first from Omaha to apply for a license in June 1940. (The war interrupted FM’s development and it would be another 20 years before WOW would get a sister FM.) He would continue to oversee operations during the war years becoming WOW President in 1943.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gillin was interested in entering the television field. For months he championed intensive studies by WOW’s engineering staff and its Board of Directors. He secured assurances from NBC that the station would be a charter member of that network’s Midwest television network. On August 28, 1949, he pushed the button officially signing on Omaha’s first television station.

Mr. Gillin was heavily involved in the growth of broadcasting. Considered one of the founders of the Nebraska Broadcasters Association, Gillin was the second NBA president/chair of the board of directors. Also, he was elected a director of the National Association of Broadcasters at the age of 29 serving from 1934 to 1947. Often known as the man with the rose (Mr. Gillin wore a fresh rosebud in his lapel each day), he was seen as the broadcaster who knew more radio people of his time, many by their first names, and was known by more of his colleagues than any other U.S. broadcast manager.

John Gillin died of a heart attack in 1950 at the age of 45.

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