from war hero to journalism pioneer
By Emily Siddiqui, Student Editor
Raoul Jacques “Jack” DeLier was a war hero before traveling the country to sell motion pictures for Universal Studios. Then a job offer changed his life and propelled him into a distinguished career, one which earned him induction into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in 1980.
As I interviewed him in his Oklahoma City home filled with pictures of his family, DeLier remembered back to the 1950s when Independent Theatres President Henry Griffing offered him a job at KWTV-Channel 9. Just weeks after the Oklahoma City station first went on the air, he became national sales manager on January 8, 1954.
“I had no broadcast experience whatsoever,” DeLier said, laughing. Initially, he had no idea what he was selling or who his customers were. He went on to become general sales manager, station manager, general manager, and then president of Griffin Television. He was president of the station when he retired in 1982.
“That’s what you call working your way up,” he said.
Of course, even as a young broadcast journalist, leadership was nothing new to DeLier. He was student council president and captain of the baseball team in high school. In college, he was president of his fraternity. He would later serve as president of many nonprofits and institutions.
“I was always in charge of something,” he told me. “I relished responsibility.”
At 100 years old, he has a sharp memory and speaks with careful attention to detail. DeLier is legally blind, yet still looked me in the eyes as he shared stories in his deep, distinctive voice. Due to a vascular condition he lost his left leg in 2014, but he gets around well in a wheelchair. He showed me his war medals and a few of his many awards, all of which he is humble about. I looked closely at a seaside painting in his living room—the small signature at the bottom revealed he was also a talented artist. He reminded me that he gives credit to God for all of his blessings in life.
DeLier was born in 1919 in Minot, North Dakota, but grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. There, he attended a Catholic preparatory school. He then went to the University of Oklahoma on a football scholarship, only to suffer a severe leg injury, which forced him to forego that dream.
He enrolled in journalism courses and majored in history, but never actually graduated from OU. Instead, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps, learning to fly the newly built Martin B-26 Marauder and soon becoming a flight instructor. That same year, he married Barbara Ann, who would be his devoted wife for more than six decades.
Then came the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Captain DeLier flew 65 combat missions in England and France, but not without cost to him personally. On June 13, 1944, his plane was hit by antiaircraft fire while flying over Normandy. Steel shattered and hit DeLier in the face; two fellow crew members were killed. For his injuries, DeLier received a Purple Heart. He has also received the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and, most recently, the French Legion of Honor.
His son, Michael, would later join his father in being awarded the Purple Heart for injuries he suffered during the Vietnam War. Michael also followed him in broadcast management and shares DeLier’s passion for sports, especially golf.
In 1959, DeLier attended graduate school at Harvard to further his education in management development. His daughter, Michelin, also excelled academically, earning a law degree from OU and a master’s degree at Stanford University.
DeLier could be considered a KWTV historian when talking about the changes broadcast journalism has seen over the decades. Fewer than a dozen people occupied the newsroom in the beginning. When he left, he said, about 70 people were in the news department.
DeLier remembered working with other Hall of Fame members, such as Lola Hall and Jan Lovell. Even as general manager, DeLier was never above personally taking phone calls, no matter who was on the line—whether it was a distressed citizen asking the station not to run a family member’s suicide story or angry callers expressing their political views.
For nearly 50 years, he has attended every Hall of Fame induction ceremony, sitting at the same honorary table provided to him. He’s thankful that such an honor exists for those outstanding contributors to our state’s history.
“I think it’s a beautiful thing to have, to reward not only broadcast journalism, but all journalism, in our area … [and] to honor the people who really worked hard at journalism and tried to do what journalists are supposed to do.”