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KTRE’s first anchor leaves mark on East Texas news

  • May 6, 2016

Sixty years ago there was one man who greeted the people of East Texas here on KTRE-TV, Murphy Martin.

During the early days of KTRE-TV, back in 1955, Martin was the face and voice of the East Texas news.

“Well his roots always stayed in East Texas, no matter where he went,” said Randy Odom, Martin’s nephew. “He always loved East Texas and the home folk and all the people that were here. He had lots of relatives here and loved coming back home.”

Born in 1925, Martin was born and raised in Lufkin and at the tender age of 16 got a chance of a lifetime.
As he says in his autobiography, “Front Row Seat,” East Texas broadcasting giant Darrel Yates, who owned the only radio station in town KRBA, ran out to downtown Lufkin and asked a group of boys, that included Martin, if they wanted a job as a DJ.

“He walked up one evening, and he had just fired a guy at the spot that was like 6:30 to 7:00, and he wanted to know if I wanted to go to work and so he hired me,” Martin said in a recording with The History Center in Diboll in 2000.

And the rest is East Texas history.
Broadcasting came second-nature to Martin. “He was always a ‘Type A’ guy… always hustling. He never slowed down too much,” Odom said.

Under Yates’ guidance, young Martin learned the ins and outs of broadcasting. He was also in charge of the radio news in Deep East Texas as a teenager.

“All of a sudden, within a matter of weeks, I thought I was the greatest thing since sliced bread, you know,” Martin said. “I thought this is a bird’s nest on the ground.”

Martin eventually left East Texas for college in North Texas, where he met his wife and had a son, Michael.

After a short-career as a salesman, he returned back to the Pineywoods in 1949 and picked back up at the radio station until August 30, 1955, when KTRE hit the airwaves and became the only television station in Deep East Texas.

“Everyone looked at him for the news,” Odom said. “They had to trust him and believe everything he said, and he was a local guy too, so they were kind of in tuned to him all the time too.”

Murphy wasn’t just the news anchor at KTRE, he also sold advertisements for the new station.
“I anchored the news there, but I did a little of everything. I was sales manager; I was news editor; everybody wore a lot of hats,” Martin said.
“He spend a lot of time here. All day long then he would come back and do the 10 o’clock news and he wouldn’t get home until midnight. Long hours, long days,” Odom said.
Those long hours and days at KTRE eventually paid off for Martin when he decided it was time for a bigger stage.

In 1960, he went to Dallas and worked for WFAA-Dallas. He eventually became the lead news anchor at the top Texas market.

“Yeah, I did I anchored their early news show and their late news program, their 6:00 and 10:00 news,” Martin said.

He quickly caught the eye of an ABC network executive in New York City, and in 1963, he moved to the Big Apple as the evening news anchor for “Murphy Martin with the News.”

“He was the first Nightly News anchor there for ABC,” Odom said. “Of course, it’s changed a lot now, I think Ted Koppel did kind of the same thing later on, but he was the first to do that.”

The move to New York City was a big change for Martin, who had grown accustomed to anchoring, writing, and editing the news in Lufkin and Dallas.

“It was a new experience – oh so many people to do the job that only you have done before,” Martin said. “We had writers and reporters in the field, producers, and engineers, and all of these various types’ people, and it was a very enriching and different experience.”

The 1960s and 1970s were trying time for our nation. While at ABC News, Martin covered the big stories of the day like the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Civil Rights movement, and the Vietnam War.

“I became the revolving correspondent, civil rights stories all over the nation,” Martin said.

Martin eventually decided to take a break from journalism and jump into the world of politics working for Ross Perot.

“He was really good friends with Ross. He worked at EDS for a short time and also worked with Ross on the POWs over in North Vietnam trying to get them home,” Odom said.
In 1992, when Perot decided to run for president, Martin ran his campaign.

In 1968, Martin returned back to Texas, as the lead anchor at WFAA-Dallas, and eventually formed a friendship with the Dallas Cowboys.

“They needed an announcer for the stadium, and they asked him to do it, and he did,” Odom said.
In 1971, Martin began serving as the stadium voice for the Dallas Cowboys.

Then, later he became the sole announcer for Cowboy games in Texas Stadium until he retired in 1998. Martin also worked two Super Bowls.

Martin and his family lived the rest of their lives in Dallas. The longtime television and radio personality died in 2008, an hour short of his 83rd birthday.

“My good fortunes and that’s what they are, my good fortunes and the roads I’ve walked and traveled as a news person those roots that began right here in Angelina County that are so important to me,” Murphy said. This sot doesn’t make any sense. Maybe if you take out the that after Angelina County?
However, his legacy in the Piney Woods especially at KTRE has never faded.
“It’s good to see someone from East Texas make it good, and he did. I think he touched a lot of people’s lives,” Odom said. “I think he’s left a good influence on East Texas.”

Special thanks to The History Center in Diboll, Lufkin ISD and The Lufkin Daily News in reporting this story on KTRE’s Murphy Martin.

You and your family are invited to KTRE-TV 60th celebration on Saturday, August 29th from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The party will be at the KTRE-TV studio located at 358 TV Road in Pollok, TX, next to the Lufkin State School. We’ll have free food, music, meet and greet with the KTRE anchors, kids area, tour of the KTRE-TV studio and more.

See this article on KTRE

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