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William Herbert “Herb” Hartman
First Chief Engineer for Kelly Broadcasting

(Copy by Walt Wade, KE6HQA)

Herb was born February 16, 1923 in San Antonio, Texas. He was the only child of Henry L. Hartman, a Pharmacist, and Alice Maude Hartman, a Registered Nurse. He died peacefully surrounded by his family on August 20, 2014 from complications of bladder cancer.

The Hartman family home was two blocks from the Alamo. Herb and his childhood friends played in the rundown building before the government renovated the site turning it into a historical building.

From the time Herb was 4 years old and listened to a presidential speech on a crystal set radio, he was intrigued with broadcasting. As a young high school student he spent most of his spare time at the local radio station, Mission Broadcasting’s KONO in San Antonio. Because he asked many intelligent questions about how things worked, the station engineers tutored Herb in electronics. With their encouragement and the encouragement of his high school radio shop teacher, Herb studied every book the local and school libraries had on the subject of radio broadcasting as well as electronics, physics, chemistry, astronomy and many other sciences of interest to him.

In 1938, at age 14, the engineers at the radio station urged him to take the rigorous Federal Communications Commission commercial radio engineers examination. He was the youngest person in the United States at that time to pass the test. Herb worked as a technician at KONO radio station while continuing his studies at the San Antonio Vocational and Technical School. Herb also was a 1st Lieutenant in the Junior ROTC program and served as vice president of the School Radio Club. He graduated high school at age 16 and began working full time at KONO.

In 1941, at age 18, he was hired by Gila (Arizona) Broadcasting Company as chief engineer for the radio stations in Safford and Globe Arizona. During his employment with Gila Broadcasting he engaged in research on directional antenna designs, building and installing several radio stations for other entities.

Cal Bollwinkel

Herb also performed consulting work in the generation and distribution of electrical power for the Morencie Copper mine. This mine, the largest in the United States, provided much of the copper vital to the munitions manufacturers during World War II.
Herb instituted the electronics course at Gila College in Thatcher, Arizona, and served as its first instructor while on loan from Gila Broadcasting. As a test of emergency broadcasting, he conducted an experimental project in 1947-48 to test the signal strength of balloon-supported antennas. These tests, on a special frequency, were performed on the summit of Arizona’s 10,000 foot high Mount Graham.

In 1949, Ewing C. "Gene" Kelly hired Herb as the first Chief Engineer for Kelly Broadcasting in Sacramento. In addition to serving as chief engineer of KCRA AM and FM radio stations, Herb attended and testified at the national hearings on the assignment of TV channels in the nation. As a result of his expertise, Kelly Broadcasting was granted the regional license to broadcast on channel 3 of the television broadcast spectrum. To this day Kelly Broadcasting remains an affiliate of NBC and a giant in the industry. Initially, Channel 3 broadcasted from the 500 foot tall, self-supporting tower still located at the 310 10th Street location. Herb was instrumental in KCRA broadcasting in color as the first station on the West Coast to do so.

Herb served as Chairman of the Sacramento Section of the Institute of Radio Engineers from 1949 to 1959.

In 1959, Herb convinced Gene Kelly of the need to expand KCRA’s viewing area and knew just how to accomplish that task. To widen the range of the broadcasting area, Herb contracted on behalf of KCRA with KXTV, KOVR, and RCA. He negotiated with the FCC to allow building of an antenna tower tall enough to reach 25,000 square miles and, at that time, four million viewers throughout the Sacramento Valley. He was instrumental in the engineering of the “Candelabra” style, 1549 foot tall antenna tower, located at Walnut Grove, California. The tower was, at that time, the tallest in the West and one of the highest in the world. With the completion of the tower, Channels 3, 10 and 13 began broadcasting from the three, separate, antennas atop the massive tower. His idea, and guidance, produced a quantum leap in the quality and range of the television signals for all three stations. The Candelabra tower still stands today, transmitting for Channels 3, 10 and 13.

In 1963 Herb met with Governor Edmund Brown’s advisors to consider implementing a better method of Emergency Broadcasting Systems. He received a commendation letter from Gov. Brown expressing how pleased he was with reports of the meeting and gratefulness for Herb’s contribution to this vital field.

Herb served 12 years as a committee member and advisor for the Trade Advisory Committee with the State of California Department of Corrections. During this time he also taught electronics once a month, as part of a Vocational Training Program at the California State Prison at Folsom.

Later Herb took a hiatus from Kelly Broadcasting to become Vice-President of Sales for the Grass Valley Group, a manufacturer of high-end video switching and signal processing equipment for commercial television stations. Tired of the constant travel involved in national sales, Herb returned to Kelly Broadcasting as the director of special projects.

Forty-seven years ago, Herb started Research Derivatives, Incorporated. With this new company he developed and manufactured a wide variety of innovative, as well as standard, electronic controls for the highway paint striping industry and for laboratories. He also developed specialized controllers for The State of California Materials Testing Laboratory in the San Francisco Bay Area. His company sold equipment in all fifty states, Canada, Mexico, Spain and Brazil. The company was “sole source” for several states and many State Transportation agencies and road painting contractors. Although he knew he had a terminal illness, he ran his company full time until just two weeks prior to his passing.

As an avid boater, Herb taught himself celestial navigation. He also joined the Coast Guard Auxiliary as the 12th District Career Coordination Officer (AIM). He taught safe boating classes and navigation skills to numerous new boat owners. Herb also conducted courtesy inspections of (civilian) boats and aided in search and rescue operations in the Sacramento Delta. It was not unusual for Herb to tow distressed boaters to the nearest marina for repairs or refueling, all done as a volunteer and at personal expense.

In the early 60’s, in mid-February, he helped friends Captain Bob Gaylord, his wife Evelyn, and the paid hand, Tony, sail the sixty-foot-long schooner Aafje, back to California from Hawaii. Mid-way through the trip a horrendous and life threatening winter storm blew them off their course, leaving them close to the Aleutian Island chain near Alaska. They had to sail down the West Coast of Alaska, Canada, and the United States to return to the home port of San Francisco. The return trip took three weeks, one week longer than done under normal weather conditions.

Herb was predeceased by his loving wife, Janet (Ferris) Hartman, and is survived by his daughters, Margaret Annette (Walt) Wade, of Roseville, California; Marjorie Beth (Don) Smelser, of Fallon, Nevada; René Hartman (Sam) Domino of Forsyth, Missouri; and grandson, Anthony William Shumate, of Sacramento, California.

A special heartfelt “Thank You” goes to the doctors, nurses, and ancillary staff members working at Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center for their excellent care of Herb during his last days.

Herb requested there be no services. In lieu of flowers, please send any contributions to the American Cancer Society.

Herb, you are already missed by your family and large crowd of friends and colleagues. You touched thousands of lives with your wit, humor, mentoring, work ethic and sharing of your deep knowledge of many subjects.

last edited 26 Aug 2014