Gaylon Christie, a longtime Central Texas radio personality, businessman and civic leader, died Wednesday at a Temple hospital. He was 77.
Christie, who put the city of Copperas Cove on the map when his radio station, KOOV, went on the air in late 1977, was remembered as much for his big heart as his distinctive big voice.
Joe Lombardi, who started working at KOOV in early 1978, described Christie as “a true community broadcaster.”
“We (KOOV) were involved with all the local
communities, very much so,” Lombardi said. “Any time there was something we could help with, we would always be there with our remote unit. Gaylon believed the community came first, unlike today’s corporate radio mindset.”
One of those examples was in 1991, when 26,000 Fort Hood troops began returning home from the first Gulf War.
From the first flight to the last, Christie provided a live remote at what became known as Victory Corner to keep the community aware of returning flights and welcome the soldiers home.
The action earned Christie a certificate of appreciation from the Department of the Army for patriotic civilian service, presented in August 1992.
Les Ledger, former owner of Ledger Furniture in Copperas Cove, told of a time when the Cove school district was in danger of losing federal Impact Aid. Christie conducted live remote broadcasts to publicize the issue, and he did it at no charge.
“He was full of good deeds for Copperas Cove, Killeen and the Central Texas area,” Ledger said. “I am deeply saddened by his leaving us. Cove feels a huge loss; he never failed to serve the community.”
Lombardi also remembered Christie as much more than his boss of 22 years.
“He always treated people very well. He treated everyone like a family member,” Lombardi said. “We were more like friends and brothers than employee and employer. He’s the best boss I ever had; he was always there for me.”
Monica MacKay Hull, director of business development with the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation, worked at KOOV from 1986 to 1994. She remembers Christie as someone who sincerely cared about people.
She also remembers his great sense of humor. “He always had a joke and he always participated in practical jokes on the staff at KOOV,” Hull said. “His ear for music and knowing what people wanted to listen to was unparalleled.” Of the man affectionately known as Big Daddy, Hull said, “He was bigger than life and his personality just filled the room.”
Christie, a native of Holland, Texas, started his radio career in 1954 as an on-air personality for KTEM in Temple, followed by positions in Taylor, Killeen and Port Arthur. He became general manager of KTON in Belton in 1966, but in 1973 he moved to Fort Worth to take a position as general manager of a new station, KXOL-AM. He returned to Central Texas a few years later to launch KOOV. He sold the station when he retired in 2001.
In addition to being a radio station executive and on-air personality, Christie made his mark in the civic arena.
He served as a city councilman in Harker Heights from 1966 to 1973 and again from 1982 to 1985. Three times he was elected mayor pro tem, and he also served on the city’s planning and zoning commission.
Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce President Bill Kozlik, who served on the city’s planning commission with Christie, said, “I’ve lost a very dear friend. I worked on many projects with Gaylon back in the ’70s. We went to church together, I’ve known his family, we’ve been close for a long time.
“He is probably one of the most dedicated, loyal, truest friends that anyone could have.”
Kozlik noted that the city honored Christie for his community service five years ago with the Cox-Kern Founders Award, named for the city’s founders, P.R. Cox and Harley Kern.
Attorney Ted Smith, a former Harker Heights city councilman, former chamber of commerce president and longtime friend of Christie, was instrumental in establishing the Cox-Kern award.
“Gaylon did a lot for this community. His sense of humor and his presence was just amazing,” Smith said.
“He was a wonderful person, and I’m really going to miss him.”
Christie served as president of the local chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army, director of the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce, president of the board of directors of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center of Central Texas, and on the board of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce.
In 1986, Christie was honored with the Central Texas Exchange Club’s Golden Deeds Award for his civic contributions.
Christie also was given the Community Builders Award by Killeen Masonic Lodge 1125, the first time the statewide award was presented to anyone other than a member of the Masonic Lodge.
Last February, Christie was inducted into the Country Radio Hall of Fame in a ceremony at the Nashville Convention Center — an honor recognizing individuals who made significant contributions to the radio industry over a 20-year period, 15 of which must be in the country format.
Funeral services for Christie are pending with Crawford-Bowers Funeral Home in Killeen.