Obit: Robert `Bob` Shepherd (1933-2013) Was Longtime General Manager of WDCN

Bob ShepherdRobert L.  (Bob) Shepherd, former vice president and general manager of WDCN-TV (now Nashville Public Television) died on Thursday, November 21 at home in Nashville after a short illness.  He was 80.

Shepherd was involved in public television for 40 years as a leader on the local, regional and national levels, serving two terms on the national board of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). He began his career at WEDU in Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla. and, as producer-director of its local cooking show, met and married the former Beverly Crowell who was the program’s featured home economist. He joined WDCN in Nashville as program manager in early 1963 and two years later at the age of 32 was appointed general manager, at the time one of the youngest public television station managers in the nation. He guided the fledgling station through decades of growth until retiring in 1998.

Shepherd was at the helm of WDCN when it broadcast its first color transmission in 1967 and converted to full-color in 1974; when it began broadcasting signals from the new PBS satellite in 1974; and when it started Closed Captioning for the hearing impaired in 1989 and Descriptive Video Service for the visually impaired in 1994.

He was instrumental in creating the Nashville Public Television Council in 1971 to assist with fund-raising and operation of the station, and in 1973, he was the principal negotiator in the history-making, multi-million dollar 1973 channel swap between WDCN public channel 2 and commercial ABC affiliate channel 8 (now WKRN). He also oversaw construction of WDCN’s state-of-the-art telecommunications center, which in 1977 was national runner up for “Station of the Year.”

“Bob essentially created public television in Middle Tennessee,” said Beth Curley, president and CEO of NPT. “He was active on many local and national committees to advance the cause of public media.  He was a kind and trusted advisor.”

The achievement Shepherd was most proud of for the station came shortly before his retirement when he engineered an agreement to transfer licensing of WDCN from the Metropolitan Board of Education to an independent not-for-profit entity which has become Nashville Public Television. The Midsouth chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) honored him with its Silver Circle service award and its Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Current NPT Board Chair Richard Warren recalled that Shepherd got him involved with the station over thirty years ago to provide pro bono legal services.

“Bob had a passion for public broadcasting and managed to do excellent work both in managing the local station with very limited resources and within the larger PBS community,” said Warren. “It delighted him as he approached retirement to assist in the establishment of a community-based nonprofit organization to take over the license for the station and create a base for the station to continue to grow.”

Shepherd was born in Atlanta, Georgia on August 21, 1933, and spent his early life relocating often as the son of an Army officer. He was a 1952 graduate of Gadsden High School and served two years active duty in the U.S. Army Reserves Counter Intelligence Corps in Japan. After being honorably discharged, he completed his degree in radio and television at the University of Alabama where he was a proud member of Pi Kappa Phi fraternity.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Beverly C. Shepherd; daughter, Nancy Shepherd Lesser (Craig) of Atlanta; son, Scott Shepherd of Alexandria, La.; son-in-law, Christopher McNutt of Woodstock, Ga.; and grandchildren Nicholas and Emily McNutt, Ellen and Julie Lesser, and Natalie Shepherd. He also is survived by sister Betty Butler of Blairsville, Ga. and beloved nieces Terri Johnson (Jerry) of Hiram, Ga. and Cindi Wheatley (Patrick) of Mableton, Ga., in addition to extended family and friends.

Visitation will be Saturday, November 30, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at West Harpeth Funeral Home, 6962 Charlotte Pike, Nashville. A celebration of Bob’s life will take place Sunday, December 1 at 2 p.m. at Hillwood Presbyterian Church, 6220 Hickory Valley Road, Nashville. Burial will be at Crest Lawn Memorial Park in Atlanta. Donations in his memory may be made to Nashville Public Television or the . WEST HARPETH FUNERAL HOME, 6962 Charlotte Pike; online guestbook

Portions of this obituary were culled from the obituary on Tennessean.


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