WRATHER, JACK

U.S. Media Executive/Producer

Born in Amarillo, Texas, Jack Wrather became a oil wildcatter who eventually rose to be president of an oil company founded by his father. He later expanded his resources into real estate, hotels, motion pictures, and broadcast properties. Following service in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, he relocated to California, where he diversified his holdings in the movie business, creating Jack Wrather Pictures, inc. and Freedom Productions. Between 1946 and 1955, Wrather produced feature films for Eagle Lion, Warner Brothers, Allied Artists and United Artists, including The Guilty, High Tide, Perilous Waters, Strike It Rich, Guilty of Treason, The Lone Ranger, The Magic of Lassie, and The Legend of the Lone Ranger.

A true entrepreneur, Wrather established television syndication services during the 1950s such as Television Programs of America and Independent Television corporation. He was also co-owner of television stations licensed to Wrather-Alvarez Broadcasting Company in Tulsa, San Diego, and Bakersfield.

Perhaps Wrather is most noted for several television program series he produced: The Lone Ranger, Lassie, and Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. These programs, which were standards among early syndicated television offerings, served stations affiliated with networks as well as independent stations, and demonstrated that formulaic, filmed entertainment could provide audiences and a resalable product. In many ways, Wrather's operations foreshadowed some of the most significant developments in the economic support structure for the next generation of television, a fact he obviously recognized.

After paying three million dollars to George W. Trendle for rights to The Lone Ranger, Wrather considered his purchase an important part of American history. The 221-episode half-hour western series, licensed through the years to ABC, CBS, and NBC, remains in syndication today. In the 1950s Wrather also produced the popular weekly Lassie adventure series and 78 episodes of Sergeant Preston.

Among other Wrather holdings were the Queen Mary, and Howard Hughes's transport aircraft, the Spruce Goose. He also owned Disneyland Hotel and served as board director or board chair for Continental Airlines, TelePromTer, Muzak, Inc. and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Wrather was among several prominent business executives who became members of Ronald Reagan's original transition committee when Reagan became president in 1991. Jack Wrather died of cancer in 1984 at age 66.

-Dennis Harp

 


Jack Wrather
Photo courtesy of Broadcasting and Cable

JACK WRATHER. Born John Devereaux Wrather, Jr., in Amarillo, Texas, U.S.A., 24 May 1918. Educated at the University of Texas at Austin, B.A., 1939. Married: Bonita Granville, 1947; children: Molly, Jack, Linda, and Christopher. Served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, 1942-53. Independent oil producer in Texas, Indiana, and Illinois; president, Evansville Refining Co., 1938-40, Overton Refining Co., Amarillo Producers, and Refiners Corporation, Dallas, 1940-49; owner, Jack Wrather Pictures, Inc., 1947-49, and Freedom Productions Corporation, from 1949; president, Western States Investment Corporation, from 1949; president, Wrather Television Productions, Inc., from 1951; Wrather-Alvarez Broadcasting, Inc., The Lone Ranger, Inc., Lassie, Inc., Disneyland Hotel, Anaheim, California; owner, KFMB, KERO, and KEMB-TV in San Diego; owner, KOTY-TV in Tulsa, Oklahoma; part-owner, WNEW in New York City; chair, Muzak, Inc., Independent Television Corporation and Television Programs of America, Inc., Stephens Marine, Inc.; president and chair, Wrather Corporation; director, TelePrompTer Corporation, Continental Airlines, Transcontinent Television Corporation, Jerold Electronics Corporation, Capitol Records, Inc.; board of directors, Community Television of Southern California, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, 1970. Member: development board, University of Texas; board of counselors for performing arts, University of Southern California; Independent Petroleum Association of America; International Radio and Television Society; Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; National Petroleum Council, 1970. Died in Santa Monica, California, 12 November 1984.

TELEVISION SERIES (producer)

1949-57 The Lone Ranger
1957-74 Lassie
1955-58 Sergeant Preston of the Yukon

FILMS (producer)

The Guilty, 1946; High Tide, Perilous Water, 1947; Strike it Rich, 1948; Guilty of Treason, 1949; The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold, 1958; The Magic of Lassie, 1978; The Legend of the Lone Ranger, 1981.

 

See also Lassie; Lone Ranger; Syndication