Remembering James L. Loper

July 10th, 2013
James L. Loper

We're sad to hear of the passing of executive James L. Loper, who died on Monday, July 8, 2013 at the age of 81. Loper rose through the ranks of public television, serving as President and CEO of KCET through 1982. He also served as Executive Director of The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences from 1984 to 1999, setting in place many of the systems that remain in operation at the Academy today (including the addition of FOX to the rotation of networks airing The Emmy Awards). During his tenure, Loper also supported the creation of The Archive of American Television (in 1997).

Below are some excerpts from his 2003 Archive interview:

On the beginnings of KCET:

I was approached by a couple of gentlemen who had the idea that they could put together support for and obtain the license for Channel 28, which was lying dormant then. SC had relinquished the license. These were two really far sighted people named Winter Horton, who worked for an advertising agency in Los Angeles, and Ed Flynn, who was a public relations man. Almost singlehandedly they put together the Committee for Educational Television. The great turning point -- and I was a part of that -- from my Cal State base and having done the instructional television -- was when Glenn Seaborg, who was with the University of California and a great friend of Dr. Lee DuBridge -- DuBridge was the President of Cal Tech, probably the most prestigious educator in Los Angeles. Glenn got Lee DuBridge interested in public television -- at that time educational television -- in putting this station on the air. DuBridge knew everybody in Los Angeles, and particularly those people had money that could get into this. So there was a period when DuBridge kind of took this over.  Flynn and Horton were kind of moved aside. Somehow I stayed in the inner circle of all of that and became the secretary of the corporation and was hired ultimately by a man named Eldon Smith. The Smith family is the great unsung family behind KCET. Eldon was Vice Chairman of Security Pacific Bank and he was persuaded by DuBridge to be the kind of operating president to get this station on the air.  And then I was hired by Eldon to be the person who knew something about television to put the application for the license together, to help find the money, and so forth. That was my first job.

On airing Sesame Street:

If we have to fault the commercial networks in any way, I would say that it was the kinds of programming, the lack of programming that they had on for children, and particularly preschool children. Sesame Street addressed that very directly. Joan Cooney, my fellow Arizonan, founded that organization. Just a fantastic kind of thing. It was revolutionary that you would use a television program to teach children letters and numbers and concepts and things of that nature. And so we were able to capitalize on that. Any time -- and it still goes on with politicians -- any time that you want to get people on your side, you talk about the benefits for children or what you can do for children. We're certainly seeing that these days in the political world. We tried to use Sesame Street as a vehicle for fundraising, that again, this was the only place where preschool children, disadvantaged children particularly, could get this kind of information.

On his goals as Executive Director of The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences:

On the creation of The Archive of American Television:

On his proudest professional achievement:

Watch James L. Loper's full interview and read his obituary in The Los Angeles Times

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