By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Amarillo giant William "Bill" Quackenbush died Dec. 30 at the age of 96.
A geologist by trade, Quackenbush made an even larger impact in finding and supporting some of the brightest jewels of the Texas Panhandle including Amarillo Symphony, Amarillo Opera, the Boy Scouts Golden Spread Council and Panhandle PBS.
A Colorado native, Quackenbush earned his bachelor's degree in earth sciences from Stanford University. While there, he ran track against Jackie Robinson and lost. He served in the Army during World War II and the Korean War, then worked for several oil companies before settling in Amarillo in 1956 as an independent geologist.
In his time here, Quackenbush was a volunteer for and supporter of many organizations, including Rotary, Amarillo College, First Presbyterian Church, and the Boy Scouts.
But we at Panhandle PBS will always remember him for his ferocious support of our station right from the very start.
"We are saddened to hear of this loss," said Chris Hays, Panhandle PBS CEO and Amarillo College vice-president of communications and marketing. "Bill's support of Panhandle PBS and its mission to be a community resource and community advocate was invaluable. His leadership as a supporter of our area and the organizations that work to improve lives is much appreciated and respected."
Prior to 1988, Amarillo didn't have its own PBS station. Households with cable subscriptions received Dallas' station, KERA, in their lineup; those without cable or in the region had to hope they could pick up transmissions from OETA in Oklahoma or elsewhere.
But on Aug. 29, 1988, Amarillo College's television station was christened as a full-fledged, noncommercial member station of PBS — thanks, in no small part, to work that Quackenbush did.
"When you want to move forward, you have to find people in the community who will support you but also be on the founding board and lead you in the right direction," said Joyce Herring, the station's first general manager. "Bill was that from the get-go. He wanted things that were good for the region and its people, and he wanted them done correctly."
Quackenbush actually helped flip the switch when KACV officially became a PBS station, Herring said.
"There was a core group of folks, a lot of people who made the station a success, but he was there from the start, and his contribution is invaluable," Herring said. "The Texas Panhandle is fortunate to have had leaders like Bill Quackenbush and the foresight they have not only in public television but in initiatives all across the board.
"He really will be missed."
He was preceded in death by his first wife, Charlotte Quackenbush, and his second wife, Bea Quackenbush. Survivors include his wife, Ruth Quackenbush; daughter Louise Wisian and husband Ralph; son Jack Quackenbush and wife Tammy; three step-sons, Howard Beard, Billy Jack McLaughlin and Leslie Biffle and wife Stephanie; three step-daughters, Judy Beard Nichols, Pamela Beard McClain and Aimee Whitfill; and grandchildren Catherine, Julie, Malachi, Emmett, William, Tom and Mary.
Services will be 2 p.m. Friday at Westminster Presbyterian Church, with Dr. Clay Brown officiating. Private burial will be in Llano Cemetery. Arrangements are by Boxwell Brothers Funeral Directors, 2800 Paramount Blvd.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials go to Panhandle PBS, P.O. Box 447, Amarillo, TX 79178; Amarillo Opera, 2223 S. Van Buren St., Amarillo, TX 79109; Amarillo Symphony, 301 S. Polk St. Ste. 700, Amarillo, TX 79101; or Boy Scouts Golden Spread Council, 401 Tascosa Rd., Amarillo, TX 79124.
"Bill was an eager community leader that proudly supported many civic and arts programs that benefited everyone in Amarillo," said Kevin Ball, Panhandle PBS general manager. "His wit and wisdom helped shape the quality of life in our area, and his example will continue to guide our plans for the future."