Ron Hull was a pioneer of public broadcasting in Nebraska and the nation

By: - April 20, 2023 8:09 pm
Ron Hull

Ron Hull, at right, interviewed many of Nebraska’s giants of literature and entertainment, including talk-show host Dick Cavett, pictured here in a 2008 interview. (Courtesy of Nebraska Public Media)

LINCOLN — Born in a brothel in South Dakota, Ron Hull went on to become a “champion” of public broadcasting in Nebraska, in the nation and even in southeast Asia.

Hull, 92, died Thursday.

His death ended a remarkable, 70-year career of helping launch public television in Nebraska, interviewing famous authors and celebrities and initiating the “American Experience” program during a stint with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

‘Profound impact’

“He is an admired pioneer across Nebraska, in Washington, D.C., and around the world,” said Mark Leonard, the CEO and general manager of Nebraska Public Media (NPM) in a press release.

“The impact he had on public media has been profound,” Leonard added.

Ron Hull
Ron Hull, a pioneer of public broadcasting both in Nebraska and nationally, speaks at a 2021 event honoring poet John Neihardt at the State Capitol. (Paul Hammel/Nebraska Examiner)

Hull, who was continuing to work as a senior adviser to Nebraska Public Media, began his career as a producer and director at the fledgling statewide network in 1955. He was one of only five employees at a public television station that had no studio, no cameras and no budget, according to NPM.

Over the years, he interviewed many of Nebraska’s literary treasures, including author Mari Sandoz and writer/poet John Neihardt, as well as actors Sandy Dennis and Henry Fonda, and talk show host Dick Cavett.

His testimony at the Nebraska Legislature helped obtain funding for NET’s headquarters building in Lincoln.

In the early 1980s, Hull worked for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, securing funding for “NOVA” and programming from New York’s Metropolitan Opera and initiating the “American Experience” series.

Hull, according to NPM, also brought newscaster Bill Moyers back to public television and gave Ken Burns, the award-winning documentary film director, seed money for his documentary series about the Civil War.

Nebraska Hall of Fame
Ron Hull, standing, cast the fourth and deciding vote in favor of Malcolm X’s induction into the Nebraska Hall of Fame in September 2022.
(Paul Hammel/Nebraska Examiner)

Hull’s career included work as a telecommunications adviser to the government of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

Hull was a tireless promoter of Nebraska literary events, helping to promote conferences associated with Sandoz and Willa Cather, and for more than 50 years, serving as master of ceremonies at the annual Neihardt Day in Bancroft.

Hull was honored with numerous awards, including being inducted into the Gold Circle honor society of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He received the “Sower Award” from Humanities Nebraska and the “Distinguished Nebraskan Award” from the Nebraska Society of Washington, D.C.

Hull helped spearhead Nebraska’s commemoration of the Lewis and Clark Expedition’s bicentennial in 2003-2006.

Most recently, Hull chaired the Nebraska Hall of Fame Commission, which selected Malcolm X as its next inductee.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Naomi, and is survived by four children, Kevin, Brian, Brandon and Kathryn.

A funeral service is scheduled for 10 a.m. April 29 at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Lincoln.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska state government and the state for decades. Previously with the Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha Sun, he is a member of the Omaha Press Club's Hall of Fame. He grows hops, brews homemade beer, plays bass guitar and basically loves traveling and writing about the state. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation.