Mahlon Ray Aldridge, Jr.
(1915 – 1986)
Mahlon was born and raised in Jefferson City, Missouri. He was the son of a prominent surgeon. Mahlon was married to Bette Curran, also of Jefferson City, and the couple had two sons.
Mahlon’s career in broadcasting began by accident. He was working as reporter for the Jefferson City News-Tribune and, following his love of sports, officiating basketball games. In the late 1930’s, Mahlon had completed an officiating assignment and was asked to fill in as the KWOS Radio play-by-play announcer after the assigned talent called in sick. Soon after that evening, Mahlon was hired as the news director for KWOS, which was owned by the New-Tribune.
In 1942 Mahlon went to work at KXOK Radio which was owned by the St. Louis Star-Times. The day he began working at KXOK he was joined by another new employee, named Harry Caray, and the two men became friends. In 1945, Aldridge and Caray both auditioned for the job as play-by-play announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals and the results of that audition are historical. Later that year the Star-Times transferred Mahlon from KXOK to their Columbia, Missouri property, KFRU. After serving as general manager of KFRU for three years, Aldridge joined with Columbia Daily Tribune owner and publisher H.J. Waters, Jr. and purchased the station.
When Aldridge took the reins of KFRU, he committed the programming to news and community affairs. The KFRU newsroom became a laboratory for the broadcast students of the University of Missouri Journalism School, a working arrangement that continued until MU built both KOMU-TV and KBIA-FM. Mahlon was a strong voice for journalism in a business where the bottom line too often crowds out journalism. Mahlon instilled a sense of what it means to be in a profession where the minimum requirement is a dedication to honesty and fair play. One former student called him a “Professor of Integrity”.
His belief in the importance of news and its place in the programming of local radio earned Mahlon special recognition from the University Of Missouri School Of Journalism. On April 23, 1976, Mahlon was presented the Honor Award for Distinguished Service to Journalism. Among others honored that day were CBS news anchor Dan Rather and 60 Minutes producer Don Hewitt.
Mahlon never lost his love of sports that had given rise to his choice of a profession. After The Star-Times moved him to Columbia, Mahlon began broadcasting Missouri football and basketball games. After taking part ownership in the station in 1948, working with the University of Missouri Athletic Department and MFA Insurance and Oil Companies, Mahlon began a five-station network affiliated to broadcast the Tiger games. At the height of its affiliations (55 stations), the network had grown to become the largest sports network in the country. Mahlon either fully managed or coordinated the operations of the network until 1975. Mahlon was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 1990 and in 2009 was inducted into the University of Missouri Athletic Hall of Fame.
Mahlon worked with Robert Neathery, Sr. and Bruce Barrington to develop the sports network and those associations formed a basis for the development of the Missouri Broadcasters Association. Mahlon was the Chairman of the MBA in 1950-51. He was honored to receive the MBA Distinguished Broadcaster Award in June, 1985. Other former MBA Chairmen Harold Douglas, Curt Brown and Bill Weaver all were KFRU alumni and worked for the station under Mahlon’s management. Mahlon was also the first board member to have a family member later serve on the board.