my mom: a pioneer in television
By Bob Blackburn, 2020 Lifetime Achievement Recipient
There will never be another Ida B.
From 1958 to 1975, Ida B. Blackburn hosted more than 3,000 shows on live television at KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City.
Following that remarkable run on the air, Ida B became the first female sales executive at a television station in the state, opened the first advertising agency in the state owned by a woman, and earned a reputation as a concert promoter with clients from Eddie Arnold and Liza Minnelli to Sonny and Cher.
It all began in Ninnekah, Oklahoma, a small rural community in Grady County where she was born in 1929. With a father in the oil patch, the family moved to Cement, Chickasha, and Chandler, where Ida B graduated from high school.
Her college training as a music teacher started at the Oklahoma College for Women, known today as the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, and concluded at Central State College, now the University of Central Oklahoma. Then came marriage, a short teaching career, and two children, Bobby (me) and Betty.
Ida B started her television career in 1958 when she auditioned for the role as host of a pre-school children’s show called Romper Room. Later shows, usually 30-minute live broadcasts in the morning, were called At Home with Ida B, Dateline Hollywood, and The Ida B Show. Typically, her shows featured community events, entertainment, and organizations that had a message to share with the general public.
Her lively personality, paired with a quick wit and a gift at drawing information from guests who usually were nervous about appearing on television, kept her on the air until 1975 when Good Morning America took the morning time slot.
Ida B used the medium of television to make a difference in the community. She hosted minority guests when Oklahoma City was still segregated by race.
She gave many artists such as Anthony Armstrong Jones and Jody Miller a chance to appear on television for the first time. And along with Rex Reed, she was one of the first local market television personalities in the country to regularly attend movie premieres and promotional events that had long been the domain of print journalists.
For many people who grew up in central Oklahoma in the 1960s and 1970s, Ida B was a daily guest in their homes and a source for what was going on in their community. For my sister, Betty, and me, Ida B was also a mother, mentor, and a daily reminder that talent might be important, but the real test of a person’s ability comes down to hard work, creativity, and overcoming the obstacles that come our way.
For us, she was Mom and a source of constant love. For everyone else, she was Ida B.
Ida B. was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in 2001. She died in 2016 at 87. Bob Blackburn, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, was recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to journalism in 2020.
As the host for more than 3,000 live television shows, Ida B created another outlet for news about events, organizations, and businesses. Here, she is a good sport demonstrating new Daisy BB gun. Photo courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society.