‘Mr. Orange’ Lovelace dies
I’ve known very few people more colorful than Ed Lovelace. When he arrived in Orange from Port Arthur and bought the local radio station the city was loaded with colorful people. It was a time when businesses were independently and locally owned. Ed blended in perfectly with the likes of Oldsmobile dealer Claude Brookshire, Neal Miller and Jimmy Conn, furniture store owners, Lutcher Stark, Judge Sid Caillavet, Sheriff Chester Holts, Joe Blanda, local barber; Frank Zeto and Clay Dunn, whiskey merchants, Mayor Joe Runnels, realtors Tony Dal Sasso and Sid “No More Land” Johnson, Ted Belile and Tony Griffin, rag merchants; Gus Harris, rancher-merchant; Bill Stringer, Gulf dealer, Bill Sexton, James Neff, John O. Young, attorneys; Raymond Sanders, police chief; Lannie Claybar, undertaker, Henry Stanfield, policeman-firefighter; Crip Trahan, Charlie Wickersham, car dealer; Hubert Spradling, boat dealing; Duponter, Ovie, Jackie, Corky and Don Harmon, car traders; Elmer Newman, banker; Edgar Brown Jr., industrialist; Tom Butts, cab service and pawn shop owner; Julius Carpenter, C&M Motor Co.; Judge Frank Hustmyre, district judge and manager of Orange Casket Co. This is a short list of many who made up Orange and a long list that grew through the times Ed owned KOGT radio from 1954-78.
I met him when he first arrived. The station was upstairs over the jewelry store, up a narrow flight of stairs. Ed, who had been with KOLE in Port Arthur, brought Richard Corder, a young DJ he had worked with at the P.A. station. Later, around 1957, Gordon Baxter joined Ed from KOLE and did his morning show from the Holly Motor Co. showroom on MacArthur Circle, which now houses Orange Carpet. Ted Wilkinson was general manager. I was a young sales manager with salesmen Wallace Cooper, Ernie Reid, Henry Prejean and for a short time Joe Runnels. Bax moved on to the Beaumont market after a few months. Richard became morning man. Joining Ed in 1958 was Bob Simmons as engineer and DJ. He stayed with Ed 30 years before starting North Orange Baptist Church, which grew from 50 to 500 members in six months.
Rev. Simmons left the church to join Ed in Beeville where they ran an AM/FM Spanish station. Bob and Ed both went to college for a year to learn Spanish but they never mastered it. By then Ed had become a multimillionaire. He also owned a large ranch next to the one where George H. Bush hunted. Then tragedy struck. An employee of the radio station struck and killed a woman in Kingsville, where Ed had acquired another radio station. A $6 million judgment was entered and they took everything, including the rings off of he and his wife Joan’s fingers.
Ed was busted; Joan had left him. He moved into the attic of his mother’s home in Port Arthur until she died and his sister and brother sold the house. Homeless, he moved in with son Bill and his family in Deer Park for a couple of years. He finally ended up in a Houston nursing home. He died Oct. 21 in a Katy hospital three days before his 88th birthday.
I’ve never known a better promoter than Ed. He rode around the county in a bright orange van with the call letters of KOGT painted on it. He promoted Orange at every turn. When he arrived, he brought the AM station out of the dark ages. He pioneered broadcasting Friday high school football first with Bob Simmons and Richard and later Joe Kazmar. Ed believed in remotes and always did several a week. When I opened the Opportunity Valley newspaper office on Sixth Street, Ed broadcasted the event live along with Bill Clark, Richard and Bax. Special guests were Sheriff Holts and Judge Caillavet. Ed was instrumental in the big takeoff the OVN enjoyed. He never charged me a dime but he owed me from an earlier takeover attempt of the newspaper. Ed had more sponsors than he could find time for. It was a different time, before the chain operations drove the local businesses out.
Cablevision television was brand new when Ed and attorney Lynwood Sanders brought the first cable company to the area. Ed promoted it by bringing in 10 NFL football stars. He brought in a young man from Mississippi to operate it. Al McKay became one of my best friends. Al later established Bridge City and Vidor Cablevision on a shoestring then sold it for $6 million nine years later. He died a wealthy man at age 42. Ed was also responsible for my dear, late friend Cal Broussard doing good and making a career with cablevision. Ed later attempted to go in to Beaumont with cablevision but lost his bid.
He and his first wife Edell, who died with cancer, raised their children in Orange in the Lutheran faith. They gave back much to the community. They built their radio station and their home next to it on Lemonville Road. The station, now owned by a young promoter, Gary Stelly, still features many of the things Ed installed.
When Richard suffered a stroke a few years back forcing him into retirement he became the last of Ed’s boys to leave. Richard was in radio more than 50 years. He started the popular “Let’s Go Fishing Show” more than 40 years ago. The fishing show now features fishing guide Capt. Dickie Colburn.
After Edell’s death Ed married Gloria and lived in Country Squire Estates in Orange. He later married Joan Greco. What a kick she was. I liked both of his ex-wives who are still alive and well.
I’m glad I got to travel Down Life’s Highway with Ed and our friends. He got to live a millionaires’ life, traveled the world and knew a lot of interesting people in high places. He carried a big stick in his business prime but he never misused it. I’ll never forget the columns Ed wrote for our paper and the times I visited him at the nursing home. It was sad to see the great road he had traveled come to such an end.
Ed was cremated and a memorial service will be held on Saturday, Oct.31 at Maranatha Christian Center on Highway 87 North at 11 a.m., with a gathering of family and friend to start at 10 a.m., with Pastor Bob Simmons officiating. Entombment will follow at Autumn Oaks Memorial Park.
There was a time that if Ed Lovelace had died it would have been major news in all the media outlets. Maybe he outlived his notoriety – for too few are left to remember when he was “Mr. Orange.”