This week, we learned of the passing of KLTV’s first chief engineer, Hudson Collins, who lived a long life of 94 years. While I never had the opportunity to meet him, I’m fascinated by many of the details of his pioneering career.
An engineer is an important position in any television station, but he holds the distinction of being a true pioneer in local television.
After speaking with his family, former colleagues, and even the workers at a Whataburger restaurant, I quickly developed great admiration for “Hud,” as he was known.
Here’s the obituary story I wrote for our website:
Hudson Collins, the first chief engineer of KLTV and a pioneer of local television in East Texas, has died at age 94.
For decades, Collins was responsible for maintaining the station’s day-to-day operations during an era of significant technological advances.
The Tyler native was born Oct. 3, 1921 to Thomas Clayton and Mary Foshee Collins. He graduated from Tyler High School in 1940.
Collins joined the United States Army in 1942, training to become a radio mechanic. During World War II, he worked as a civilian in San Antonio, servicing radios in combat aircraft.
After the war, he returned to East Texas to attend Tyler Commercial College, graduating with a General Radio certificate in 1948.
Six months later, he married Avinell Rose. The young couple lived at the KGKB radio station, where Hudson served as an engineer.
His move to television came with a phone call in the middle of the night, according to his obituary. The woman on the line, Lucille Buford, announced that she had purchased KGKB and would bring her own engineer to run the station. Collins thanked her for letting him know and went back to bed. Buford called back later that night and said he’d been so nice she thought she’d keep him if he wanted the job, the obituary read.
Years later, Buford called on Collins to help build the first television station in the region, KLTV, which signed on the air on Thursday, Oct. 14, 1954.
Collins influenced the careers of many broadcasting professionals, including Ennis Trimble, who worked at KLTV in the early 1960s.
“(Collins) was a very knowledgeable person with a flare for taking the complex and making it simple to understand,” Trimble posted to a memorial website.
Pat Stacey, KLTV vice president and general manager, first met Collins when he joined the station in 1986.
“Hudson or ‘Hud’ as everyone called him was a gentle spirit but a strong technical presence in the early years of broadcasting and he played a critical role in the sign-on of KLTV. His dedication over the years was a key part in making KLTV the source in East Texas for news and entertainment,” Stacey said. “Hud retired not long after I started at KLTV, but I do remember his technical savvy helping solve problems and create new advances. He was a true pioneer in our industry and will be missed.”
After retiring from KLTV at age 65, Collins returned to Tyler Junior College to study computers. He worked in construction, satisfying a passion for “fixing things.”
Throughout his life, he loved car races, amateur radio, camping, fishing, playing cards and dominoes, his obituary stated.
Collins’ kind personality was a welcome sight at the Whataburger restaurant on SSW Loop 323 in Tyler, where workers said he ate breakfast almost daily. As a tribute to the man they called ‘grandpa,’ employees changed the store’s marquee to read “RIP Mr Hudson.”
Collins died Friday, Jan. 22 and was preceded in death by his parents and his wife.
He is survived by his family, including sons Hal Collins and wife Brenda of Arlington, and Carl Collins and wife Valerie of Tyler; grandchildren, Chris Collins of Tyler, Paige Jones and husband Jonathan of Bullard, Daedra Burchfield and husband Greg of Flower Mound; great-grandchildren, Lexi, Cayley, Mason and Maggye, Hudsons’ sister, Buelah Mae Fordham of Brenham and niece, Mary Sue Longhoffer and husband Eddie of Brenham.
Funeral services were held Monday with a burial at Tyler Memorial Park Cemetery.
Butch Adair, also a former KLTV chief engineer, served as an honorary pallbearer.