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Sioux City broadcasting pioneer Dirks dies at 101
KTIV television station co-founder Dietrich Dirks ponders a question in his Sioux City home July 11, 2002. Dierks died Tuesday at his home at the age of 101. (Staff photo by Tim Hynds)

Dietrich "Dee" Dirks, Sioux City broadcasting pioneer and founder of television station KTIV and radio stations KWSL and KMNS, died Tuesday at his home at the age of 101.

Family and friends remembered Dirks as friendly, always a gentleman and conservative with his money.

"He gave me my first job out of college," said Earle Grueskin, who worked for Dirks in 1951 at radio station KCOM (now KMNS). "He was conservative in those days -- the early days of radio after World War II. He was stiff in his rules, yet very easy to work for. I always got along fine with him."

"Even in his later years, he was always a gentleman," said Sam Seldon, who worked at KTRI radio after Dirks had left, but was acquainted with him through a Sioux City broadcasting history Seldon has compiled.

Dirks, who was born and raised in Nebraska, began his broadcasting career in Lincoln after he graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1924. He worked as sports director and later general manager at KFAB radio, where he broadcast Nebraska football games. While Dirks was in the studio broadcasting, sports watchers at the football stadium would teletype game play-by-play to him, said Dirks' son, John Dirks.

On July 12, 1937, the FCC granted a construction permit to the Sioux City Broadcasting Co., which was owned 50/50 by Dirks and the Sioux City Tribune. The company was granted the permit and assigned the 1420 AM frequency with 250 watts of power in the daytime and 100 watts at night. The call letters approved were KTRI, which became KWSL in later years.

The station went on the air on July 12, 1938, from studios at Office 212 in the Commerce Building. Dirks was general manager and took on the role of president of KTRI a year later. In 1949, he sold his 50 percent interest to the Tribune.

Dirks formed the KCOM Broadcasting Co. in 1949 with three other men. The FCC approved a construction permit for radio station KCOM on AM 620, which later became KMNS.

In 1953, KCOM Broadcasting Co. and Perkins Brothers Co. applied for a television license for KTIV Channel 4. The station went on the air in October 1954. A month later, Dirks became KTIV's manager. He remained manager and president until he retired in 1968. National network news anchor Tom Brokaw worked for Dirks at KTIV.

In 1991, Dirks was inducted into the Nebraska Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame.

"He was truly a pioneer of radio in Sioux City," Grueskin said Wednesday from his home in California. Grueskin and his wife lived for several years a short distance from Dirks and his wife, Ada, in Sioux City's Country Club Boulevard area. The couples also wintered in California.

"I hadn't seen him in a number of years," Grueskin said, "but he was something. He had great ideas on broadcasting. And he was always a total gentleman and extremely friendly."

John Dirks echoed Grueskin's sentiments.

"You'd be hard-pressed to find someone in this town who didn't like him," John said. "He was a nice man, generous, knowledgeable about many things, and interested in more than just broadcasting."

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Dirks had extensive involvement in his church, First Presbyterian Church, and served with several civic organizations.

Dirks said his parents loved to golf. Since approximately 1944 or 1945, the Dirkses golfed three days a week every summer. They also traveled extensively.

Ada died in 1998. Dirks lived in his Country Club Boulevard home until his death Tuesday. He died in his sleep, John said.

He is survived by his son and daughter, Linda Dirks Williams, both of Sioux City; three grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

See obituary information on page D2.

Julie Weeder may be reached at (712) 293-4228 or julieweeder@siouxcityjournal.com.

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