Ernest Frank Barton, founder of first Spanish radio station, dies at 88

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The following is a news release from Latino Lubbock Magazine:

Ernest Frank Barton, 88, of Lubbock, Texas gently passed away on Sunday, September 30, 2018, surrounded by his loving family. 

The humble man was a Lubbock legend but always gave credit to others for his work and vision.

He was born February 1930 in Laredo, Texas to Ernest and Juanita (Trevino) Barton. After graduating from Martin High School, he joined the National Guard while he attended Laredo College. Ernest continued to serve his country by joining the Air Force. Upon returning home he continued his education at University of Texas.

He married Manuela Martinez in Laredo, Texas and they enjoyed 65 years of marriage, rarely spent time apart and raised three children. He moved his family to Lubbock in 1967, and started KLFB, the first Spanish AM radio station in West Texas. 

In 1970, after the Lubbock tornado the true value of the all-Spanish radio station was recognized when the F-5 tornado demolished the northern neighborhoods occupied by many Mexican American families.

The Guadalupe neighborhood north of 4th Street between Avenues Q and Ave. A, experienced the worst residential damage, as well as fatalities.

Barton and his staff quickly recognized a language obstacle and without hesitance responded to the needs of the Hispanic residents by assisting and serving as a link to emergency personnel and agencies who responded to the crisis. Because the KLFB radio station had been knocked off the air, they worked on a remote basis broadcasting from the basement of city hall int the emergency center next to KFYO, who was the official emergency radio station in Lubbock.

The staff of the radio station stayed on the air day and night informing Spanish-speaking citizens about the disaster.

“We worked collectively with KFYO to provide up-to-the-minute information in Spanish about what was going on and where they could get help,” shared Mr. Barton in a previous interview.

As a supplement to the radio programming, he and his staff served as translators and walked through Guadalupe neighborhood equipped with megaphones, updating the people in Spanish who might not have radio access.
“We did what we had to do because it had to be done. These families were in a state of shock and did not need a language barrier; they needed accurate information and fast.”

The owner of the radio station further became instrumental to government officials who were working to coordinate relief efforts.

For his efforts, Ernest was awarded a Presidential Commendation from then President Richard Nixon. The award, hung humbly behind his chair.

Ernest also produced Lubbock’s first weekly Spanish community affairs TV program, the “Si Se Puede” TV show, which he hosted for almost 40 years. The “Si Se Puede” show aired on KAMC for 40 years and was created as a public service to keep the Mexican American community in the viewing area informed about city happenings, and was also a result of the May 11, 1970 tornado.

For many viewers and Mexican American families the show became historical and a staple for information in their households.

Barton also served as the City of Lubbock’s first Human Relations Director, and also served as one of the founding directors of the Lubbock Rape Crisis Center.

Continuing his commitment to serve his community Ernest began publishing the West Texas Hispanic News, a weekly bilingual newspaper that ran for 41 years.

He was a media mogul. In 1992, Ernest with his wife Manuela started Lubbock’s KEJS-FM radio station, which to this day continues to serve the community.
Using media and civic involvement, he made sure all West Texans, regardless of language or other barriers, were made aware of the important issues facing their families.

Over the years, he received numerous accolades and awards, more recently, he was given the first and highest honor of the Adelante Awards – the Lifetime Achievement Award given by Los Hermanos Familia, in May 2015 for his lifetime of service and commitment.

Husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, mentor, and friend, Ernest will be greatly missed. 

Ernest and Manuela have been members of Christ the King Catholic Church for over 50 years.

He is preceded in death by his parents, eldest son Ernest Barton, Jr., and his younger brother Richard Barton. He is survived by his wife Manuela; son James Michael and wife, Cheryl; and daughter Sandra Barton Wallace and husband, Allan. He is also survived by seven grandchildren, Penny Hey and husband, Brian; Harold Loveless III; Kristina Barton Bernatis and husband, Kyle; Alicia Barton Jimenez and husband, Isaac; Elayna Barton Baca and husband, Trent; Alana Wallace and Amanda Wallace and nine great-grandchildren.  

PUBLISHER’S NOTE (Christy Martinez-Garcia):
Mr. Barton was my mentor. I have so many memories of him. He was the individual who inspired my interest in my career as a Public Relations professional, a newspaper publisher, and a TV host, and radio announcer.

I was blessed to know his good character. I’m also proud to say that many of my steps in life, have strive to follow in his gentle footsteps.

Funeral Services Detail

The family will receive guest Wednesday, October 3, 2018, at 6 p.m., at Resthaven Chapel at 5740 West 19th Street.

The rosary will follow from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the same location.

Funeral Services will be held Thursday, October 4, at 10 a.m., at Christ the King Cathedral, 4011 54th St.

(News release from Latino Lubbock Magazine)

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