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William Giorda, Who Transformed KUT As Station Director, Dies At 79

Courtesy of Marie Giorda

William Giorda, the longest serving director of KUT, died of congestive heart failure Nov. 5. He was 79.

Giorda was born in Oklahoma City and received a master's degree in communications from the University of Tulsa. He moved to Austin in 1964 with his then-wife, Carol Fishwick, to teach broadcasting at the University of Texas.

Giorda became director of KUT in 1972 and served until 1996. He was essential in making KUT a founding member station in the creation of NPR and aired the first broadcasts of Morning Edition and All Things Considered. During his time at KUT, he helped upgrade the station from its 4,000-watt roots to 100,000 watts.

"He gave Austin John Aielli," said John L. Hanson, host of KUT's In Black America. "The rest, as they say, is history."

Aielli was hired in 1966 as a part-time announcer, but soon had his own show. In 1970, Giorda named it "Eklektikos," inspired by the Greek word eklektos, meaning chosen from the best.

Giorda also broke the color barrier in Austin when he hired Hanson in 1974. There weren't black voices on the airways at the time, he and senior technical producer David Alvarez said.   

Alvarez said Giorda was forward thinking; he took the station away from the traditional classical music most NPR stations played and introduced listeners to folk, jazz and blues.   

Giorda spoke to The Texas Standard last year about what it was like to be on campus in 1966 when Charles Whitman opened fire from the UT tower, killing 17 people. He and a graduate student recorded footage of the shooting from a courtyard behind the studio.

"While he proclaimed himself shy," his daughter Marie Giorda wrote in his obituary, he "charmed those around him with his warmth, his kind and patient nature, and his delectable homemade desserts."

A memorial service will be held at a later date. 

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