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RTVC vice presidents set June 19 retirement

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Bob Thornton and Ed Malone, vice presidents at the Southern Baptist Radio and Television Commission, have announced their retirement effective June 19 when the RTVC will merge with the Brotherhood Commission and Home Mission Board to form the North American Mission Board.

Thornton, 64, is vice president of television services and Malone, 58, is vice president of radio services.

“You don’t replace the type of knowledge and experience that Bob Thornton and Ed Malone bring to the table,” said Jack Johnson, RTVC president. “Over the years they have been instrumental in presenting the gospel through the mass media in many new and innovative ways. And those programs have reached millions of people.

“They have been faithful not only in the large things but also in the small ones. Their motivation has never been self-serving. It has always been to present Jesus Christ and him crucified,” Johnson said.

Thornton, who has been at the RTVC more than 27 years, said “retirement is just a word,” and he plans to continue writing and producing on a freelance basis.

“I love the work, so I don’t plan to ever quit,” Thornton said.

Malone, who has been at the RTVC more than 31 years, said he will be working on other radio and television projects in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

“I think it’s time for new leadership,” Malone said. “I just pray the programs we produce will continue. They have been a powerful force for Jesus Christ.”

Thornton has been responsible for development and production of the RTVC-produced programs “Home Life,” “COPE” and “Country Crossroads” and for several years has been supervising producer of, and often the writer for, RTVC-produced documentaries for the ABC television network and for NBC affiliates. Working with all three major networks, he has been instrumental in bringing Christmas and Easter services of various SBC churches to national network television.

Malone, meanwhile, has been responsible for the inception and development of every radio series the agency has produced other than “The Baptist Hour.”

The RTVC currently produces five weekly 30-minute programs: “The Baptist Hour,” “MasterControl,” “Powerline,” “Country Crossroads” and “On Track.”

When the RTVC opened its new facility in Fort Worth in 1965, Paul Stevens, who was director, wanted to expand the agency’s radio ministry. He offered Malone the responsibility.

“In 1969 we went on the air with ‘Country Crossroads’ and ‘Powerline,’ both of which are still going strong,” he said.

Malone said every statistic about radio provides positive evidence that it is a powerful tool for evangelism.

“There was a period in which some people thought radio was dead,” he said, “but instead the industry has grown and flourished. Research sanctioned by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) shows that 95 percent of cars have radios, that seven of 10 adults and almost all teens listen to a car radio during any given week. That same research shows that the average American household has five radio sets.”

Thornton, in developing the TV documentaries “in-house” with partial funding from ABC, noted the time in which the documentaries are aired is provided free by network affiliates.

A recent RTVC documentary, “Circle of the Earth,” has received rave reviews throughout the country. Aired by ABC, it focuses on the spiritual lives of astronauts and others involved in the nation’s space program.

A highlight of Thornton’s career was when he was awarded an Emmy for being producer of the documentary, “China: Walls and Bridges,” which was first shown on the ABC network. He has since been nominated for three Emmys in the writing category.

As an off-shoot of “China: Walls and Bridges,” Thornton produced and directed a program called “Musical Bridges” at CCTV in Beijing. The program, under the banner of cultural exchange, featured the Centurymen, a choir of music directors from SBC churches. “Amazing Grace” was one of the Christian songs included in the program, which was aired twice in prime time to an estimated audience of 350 million people in China.

The program received a Starlight Award, which is China television’s version of an Emmy.

Thornton is a graduate of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Prior to joining the RTVC he was a newsman for a Dallas television station and covered events related to the Kennedy assassination, including reports and interviews for ABC-TV, ABC radio and NBC radio.

He was in the basement of the Dallas police station when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald. He interviewed Officer J.D. Tippit’s widow for ABC-TV on the eve of the funeral. Tippit was slain by Oswald. He later covered parts of the Jack Ruby trial and once interviewed Ruby in the hallway outside the courtroom.

He also interviewed Texas Gov. John Connally while his arm was still in a sling from the wound received during the Kennedy assassination.

Thornton and his wife, Alice, have three children and three grandchildren.

Malone graduated from Southern Methodist University in Dallas with a degree in public relations, radio and television and took a job with a public relations firm in Dallas that specialized in radio and television production. The firm did work for the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the RTVC.

Malone said he thinks radio “spots” (commercials) can reach more people than any other format.

“We’re being consumed by the Internet and other forms of new technology,” he said. “People receive information in bits and pieces. With a ‘spot’ you can provide a succinct message, and if it’s properly produced that message can have lasting results.

“For example, people remember some of the ‘spots’ run during the Super Bowl more than they remember the game. That’s why we need to continually be producing new ‘spots’ and why we need to always be looking ahead at new formats. And we need to use those formats that are proven.”

Malone said that for any Christian group to reach the world for Christ, it must use radio. He said the new millennium will be the platinum age of radio, that the best is yet to come.

Malone and his wife, Sandra, have three children and six grandchildren.

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  • C.C. Risenhoover