Ron Hull, a public media legend in Nebraska, died April 20 in Lincoln. He was 92.
Hull, senior adviser with Nebraska Public Media, began working as a producer and director at the statewide network in 1955. Hired by Jack McBride, then general manager, Hull was one of only five employees at a fledgling public television station with no studio, no cameras and no budget. For nearly 70 years, Hull’s gentle hand helped guide the development and success of the state’s public media network.
“Ron has been a champion for public media throughout his remarkable career. He is an admired pioneer across Nebraska, in Washington, D.C., and around the world,” said Mark Leonard, Nebraska Public Media’s CEO and general manager. “The impact he had on public media has been profound. So many memorable programs and program producers were the recipient of his passion, wisdom and guidance.”
Some of Hull’s first assignments in Nebraska included producing a creative writing series with author Mari Sandoz and televised lectures with celebrated poet John Neihardt. He hired talented staff, hosted fund drives and interviewed legends such as actors Sandy Dennis and Henry Fonda, Nebraska’s own talk show host Dick Cavett, Willa Cather and Chief Standing Bear.
In 1971, Hull successfully lobbied the Nebraska Legislature for funding to build the Terry M. Carpenter Nebraska Educational Telecommunications Center. The state-of-the-art facility allowed production of programs that would air nationally on PBS, including “Anyone for Tennyson?”
In the early 1980s, Hull worked for a short time for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, securing funding for “NOVA,” programming from New York’s Metropolitan Opera and initiating the “American Experience” series. During his tenure, he also brought Bill Moyers back to public television and gave Ken Burns seed money for his documentary series about the Civil War.
Hull served in the U.S. Foreign Service, and during the Vietnam War, President Lyndon Johnson named him telecommunications adviser to the government of South Vietnam. Years later, he returned to the country to film the PBS documentary “Vietnam: Beyond the Fury.” He was one of several public television executives who traveled to China to foster better U.S.-China relations and as a Fulbright scholar, taught international broadcasting in Taiwan.
Hull helped foster multicultural programming at a national level as a founding board member and treasurer of what is known today as Vision Maker Media, the nation’s premiere source of public media by and about Native Americans.
During his six decades in television, Hull was honored with numerous awards, including his July 2022 induction into the Gold Circle honor society of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
He was a recipient of the “Sower Award” from Humanities Nebraska, the “Distinguished Nebraskan Award” from the Nebraska Society of Washington D.C., and a member of the Nebraska Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Hull also served as emeritus professor of broadcasting at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Hull and his late wife Naomi had four children: Kevin, Brian, Brandon and Kathryn. A service for Hull will be held at 10 a.m. April 29, at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Lincoln.