Keith E. Gunther, broadcast journalism pioneer, dies at 99 –

Keith Gunther, a St. Louis native who had a long and distinguished career in broadcast journalism, died Aug. 29, 2015, of natural causes in his hometown. He was 99.

His widow, Berkeley Gunther, said Mr. Gunther was extremely dedicated to his work.

“He was a real groundbreaker,” she said. “I think the term ‘television pioneer’ fits him perfectly. There was not anything in the business that he did not do.”

Mr. Gunther was also “a terrific coach to the people he hired. His great strength was that he brought these people, many of them young and with very little experience, along in the industry.”

Keith Edgar Gunther was born in St. Louis, the son of Joseph J. Gunther, founder of Gunther Salt Company, and Margaret Keane Gunther. Mr. Gunther graduated from St. Louis University in 1940. Early in his career he worked in experimental television at NBC and as assistant news director at WHN Radio, both in New York.

Mr. Gunther joined the Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, spending four years aboard aircraft carriers in the Pacific — including the Intrepid — and rising to rank of lieutenant. He was released from service in 1946.

Gunther helped to put KSD-TV, one of the first post-World War II television stations in the country, on the air. He joined the station in January 1947 as its program buyer and production manager, later becoming public affairs director. In 1958, he was appointed program manager, developing a number of programs including an Emmy-winning documentary about a suburban African-American community.

Mr. Gunther was vice president of programming for the Pulitzer Broadcasting Company when he retired in 1982. He was one of the founders of the St. Louis chapter of what is now called the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, serving as national trustee for two terms. In 2007, he was inducted into the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame.

Mr. Gunther served on the board of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and was chairman of public relations for the St. Louis chapter of the Red Cross.

In addition to his widow, Mr. Gunther’s survivors include a daughter, Nina White of St. Louis; four sons, Don Gunther of St. Louis, Ed Gunther of Pinehurst, N.C., Paul Kistner of Albuquerque, N.M., and Rick Gunther of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; two stepdaughters, Lucia Sayre of Berkeley, Calif., and Ruth Moulton of St. Louis; three stepsons, Buzz Hoerr of Colchester, Vt., Carter Hoerr of Charlottesville, Va., and Steve Hoerr of St. Louis; 21 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Mr. Gunther’s first wife, Nina Gleeson Gunther, his son Bob Gunther and his stepdaughter Beth Wilcox are deceased.

His family will celebrate a memorial Mass at a later date. Donations may be made to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, care of the Church of the Immacolata, 8900 Clayton Road, 63117.


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