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story.lead_photo.caption Lee Gordon

For many Mid-Missourians, any mention of the name Lee Gordon immediately raised thoughts of television station KRCG-TV.

His family and co-workers said that's the way Lee would want it.

Gordon died Tuesday night after dealing with pulmonary issues. He was 85.

His son, Bryce, said the management at the TV station treated his dad very well through the years.

"He had a lot of offers to work in bigger markets, and a lot of times, KRCG would match the offer," Bryce said. "Finally at some point, he decided he wanted to stay in the Fulton area and raise his family in one place."

In the summer of 2008, Gordon retired from KRCG after working there for 53 years. In an interview with the News Tribune, he said he hadn't planned on staying at the station for more than 50 years. But probably a big reason for staying was his strong family ties to the area.

His uncle, the late Thorpe Gordon, has an elementary school named after him in Jefferson City and is considered to have helped the school district grow when he served on its board in the 1950s.

"Thorpe also had a funeral home business, and dad walked away from getting into that to go do radio and television," Bryce said.

Gordon's start at KRCG can be traced to when he was taking classes at the old Jefferson Junior College, which is now the building that houses the Miller Performing Arts Center.

"They were looking for a part-time announcer, and I was taking dramatics at school," he said in the 2008 story. "Two weeks later, the full-time announcer quit, and they asked if I wanted the job. I said, 'Sure!'"

Gordon credited much of his success to the late Betty Weldon, who also owned the News Tribune. Weldon was the first woman in the country to own a television station.

"I can remember her driving me to work in a powder blue Cadillac when I first started here because I didn't have a car," Gordon said in the 2008 story. "I can't say enough about that woman and what she did to get me started in this business."

Anchor Dick Preston, who was hired by Gordon to work at KRCG, has been at the station for more than 50 years and remembers how he didn't boss people around.

"He would pitch in and do anything that needed to be done," Preston said. "If we had a birthday party on the Showtime kids show, there would be Lee putting away chairs and cleaning up the set. He expected everyone else to be that way, and that was fine."

Getting the station going and keeping it afloat were some of the things Gordon remembered about the early days. He said they had to train people that television was a viable way for them to market their goods.

"There were times when it was tough to make payroll, but we did," Gordon said.

Today, networks have numerous hours of programming for their affiliates to run. However, during the '50s, '60s and '70s, KRCG and many other stations found themselves with hours they would have to fill with local programming.

"Our first program on Feb. 14, 1955, was a local show called 'Jubie's Jamboree,' named after our donkey mascot," Gordon said in 2008. "We had a cooking show and musical shows such 'Lee Mace,' which started in 1956 and ran into the '80s. We were bare bones. Our sets were on wheels."

As he left KRCG, Gordon said he missed the early days and believed station employees probably had more fun then.

"We took things seriously, but you could have fun along with it," Lee said. "If you made a mistake, nobody cared too much because it was all new."

Some of Gordon's fondest memories were when he was the vampire host on "Tales of Terror."

"Because of his connection with Thorpe, he was able to get the coffin they needed for the show," Bryce said.

Bryce said his father will also be remembered as an ambassador for Fulton.

"He would take people on tours of the Churchill Memorial and other popular spots," Bryce said. "In 2007 at the Kingdom of Callaway Supper, he was given the award for the person who had contributed most to the community."

Bryce said his dad considered himself very lucky to have met a Fulton girl and married her. Lee and his wife, Elaine, were married for 65 years before she died in August. They had three sons.

Bryce said his father was always humble about his celebrity status in Central Missouri.

"He was shy about pushing any weight around because he loved nothing more than hanging out and having a beer with his friends," Bryce said. "He always thought of himself as just a guy doing his job and never let the fact he was in TV go to his head."

In his 2008 interview, Gordon said, "I got the best advice about this business years ago when I had a boss tell me to remember that this is only a job. You're not better than anyone else, it's just a way to earn a living.

Bryce said per Gordon's wishes, the memorial service will be private. Obituaries will run later this week in the News Tribune and Fulton Sun.

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