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Radio legends like 'Doc' Brinkley make Kilgore museum come to life

 I read the Kilgore News Herald article: “veteran radio personalities revel in Kilgore (radio) museum’s history” (Nov.3 issue). When I was age 16, I became a licensed amateur radio (ham radio operator). I’m still licensed...call-sign KA0HOO, but I seldom use it.

As an adult I am fascinated by a radio legend Dr. John R. “Doc” Brinkley, MD, who was probably the most prominent medical doctor in Kansas and Texas in the 1920s and 1930s.

 Doc Brinkley was known for his powerful radio-station in Kansas K.F.K.B. (nicknamed, Kansas’ First, Kansas’ Best” station). After being rejected as the real winner in the gubernatorial election, Brinkley relocated to Del Rio, Texas. He died in San Antonio, Texas. He bought a radio station, which was set up across the Rio Grande River bridge in Mexico and cranked it up to 1 million watts of transmitting power. Its booming-signal could be heard in Canada. It was nicknamed “the border-blaster Radio Station”. Dr. Brinkley’s tombstone is impressive: At the base of the pillar the tombstone has two Masonic emblems denoting his fraternal memberships. He was a Methodist, also a member of the Odd Fellows Lodge.

When I was a kid, I’d hear older people speak of Doc Brinkley’s exploits in Kansas and in TEXAS. Even many people from the Great Bend area (including friends and neighbors of my own relatives) patronized The Brinkley Clinic in Kansas. So, I went to Memphis to see “Doc” Brinkley’s gravesite in 2013. Brinkley served in the Army and he drew good acclaim for his treating many patients during the 1918 flu pandemic.  His “treatments” of the 1920s and 1930s,made him a millionaire, so Brinkley bought a fleet of Cadillacs, an airplane, and a couple of Radio Stations. 

Back then, Republicans and Democrats teamed-up and conspired to defeat the “write-in candidate”. Only ballots specifically marked “J.R. Brinkley” were considered as valid to be counted. By contrast, if a voter wrote “Dr. John Brinkley” or “Doc Brinkley”, the ballot was immediately tossed-out, even though the voter’s intention was obvious. Clearly The man who was ultimately declared winner, Harry Woodring, several years later, when his own term had safely ended, admitted that if all the votes were counted: Brinkley would have won outright. Hence, Brinkley was cheated out of the Governor’s Chair. Thereafter, Brinkley moved to Texas, remained eccentric, but his perseverance demonstrated “Winged-Victory.”

James A. Marples

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