Television station executive Robert A. “Bob” Wilson — the father of Hollywood actors Andrew, Owen and Luke Wilson — has died.
Luke confirmed his father had passed away on May 5, according to The Dallas Morning News. He was 75 years old.
Besides his famous sons, Bob was known for his work at Dallas public television affiliate KERA News. According to KERA, Bob took over the station in 1968 at age 26. He was the station’s manager until 1975. During that time, he made several changes to the station, including bringing the station from black and white into color and launching KERA FM.
Another of his major contributions to the station was bringing on Jim Lehrer to run the station’s news unit. After hosting the program “Newsroom” on KERA, Lehrer would go on to host “NewsHour,” which aired on PBS.
“I would have never, ever gone into public broadcasting or had the opportunity to participate in something like the creation of ‘NewsHour’ on PBS, had it not been for Bob Wilson,” Lehrer told The Dallas Morning News.
Lehrer also said Bob was “a very important person” in his life. “The one thing Bob contributed above and beyond everything else was absolute energy. This man operated at full blast. Neither one of us knew a damn thing about television, but Bobby had it in him, and he put KERA on the map.”
Bob was also responsible for KERA becoming the first station in the United States to air “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” a sketch comedy show which originally aired on the BBC. He approved the decision to air the program on KERA in 1974.
Bob’s death comes after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. In 2015, Owen spoke about his father’s condition.
“It is a rough thing,” he said in the interview. “It’s one of those things where if somebody had said 10 years ago, when my dad and I were joking around, having a putting match, that this is the position your dad’s going to be in, where he basically needs 24-hour care, you’d think, ‘Gosh, I won’t be able to handle that. That’s just not possible.'”
In addition to his three sons, Bob is also survived by his wife, Laura, an acclaimed photographer. She said that despite his successes, her husband was always modest.
“He really sacrificed, in a way, his life for the creative freedom that each of us were able to experience,” she said. “And that’s unusual because he himself was very creative.”
Luke has asked that those wishing to honor his father’s memory should make a donation to PBS.
Sources: The Dallas Morning News, KERA / Photo credit: Valerie Everett/Flickr, KERA