NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- As Chuck Larsen remembers it, he had just arrived at the Marriot Suites in Atlanta. It was 1983, and he was on his first trip selling TV programming when Lee Jackoway, an industry sales veteran and old friend from WLWC-TV in Columbus, Ohio, put an arm around his shoulder, offered to buy him a drink and share all his secrets.
This was not normal behavior in the competitive TV-sales industry, but as everybody tells it, that's the kind of guy Mr. Jackoway was.
A veteran TV programming syndication salesman for nearly 40 years, Leland A. Jackoway died Jan. 15 in Richmond, Va. He was 78.
"Lee was a gentleman, and a terrific salesman, but he did it with style," said Mr. Larsen, who knew Mr. Jackoway for more than 30 years, and is now president of October Moon Television, a distribution consulting firm in Los Angeles. "He was one of the first ones to give me a hand, some pointers. I never heard anyone say a negative thing about Lee [and] in our business, that's pretty unusual."
A native of Chicago, Lee Jackoway attended the University of Miami's School of Communication before leaving in 1951. He got his start in the radio and TV entertainment business in Richmond, the hometown of his new bride, Mary Ellen Reinhard. He worked as a disc jockey and radio and TV ad salesman, first in Richmond, then in nearby Harrisonburg, selling ads during the day for his show at night. His sales pitch: "A dollar for a holler." Mr. Jackoway did that for seven years, honing his salesman's skills before joining Ziv Television in 1958.
There, he helped first-run syndicate TV shows such as "Highway Patrol" (1955), "Sea Hunt" (1958) and "Home Run Derby" (1959). "As a young kid, my dad would pull the curtains and darken the living room," recalled his son, Jim, a Los Angeles lawyer who represents David Letterman, among others. "I'd have my friends over and we would watch 'Home Run Derby' on the projector screen. We'd see it before it was even on television."
David L. Wolper Productions
Lee Jackoway would eventually rise to the position of regional sales manager, but left in 1964 to join David L. Wolper Productions. There, he syndicated several more shows, including the original "Biography," with host Mike Wallace, "The Legend of Marilyn Monroe" and "The Incredible World of James Bond."
By 1966, Jackoway had moved on to WLWC, and then WRNL AM/FM in Richmond, where he served as exec VP-general manager. One of his employees was F.T. Rea, now a writer at SlantBlog, who shard fond memories of his former boss in an e-mail.
"Lee was a great storyteller and could be very funny," Mr. Rea recalled. "Over the years I've thought of [him] many times, and realized more and more how valuable my time under his tutelage was."
One of the most important moves of his career came in 1982, when, as VP-general sales manager of Multimedia Entertainment, Mr. Jackoway threw his weight behind "The Sally Jessy Raphael Show," making it the first nationally syndicated single-top talk show ever hosted by a woman.
'Risked his career on us'
"Whatever little career I had, I owe it to Lee," Ms. Raphael said. "He believed in our show, and risked his career on us. He sold it across the country to people who didn't want it. ... The guy was a prince -- most people in broadcasting are bastards, but this was one of the good guys."
That was the sentiment of nearly everyone who knew Mr. Jackoway, who retired in 1991 and split the remainder of his life between homes in Richmond and Virginia Beach.
"He loved his family, enjoyed his colleagues," Jim Jackoway said, "and was happiest when he was selling TV programs."
Lee Jackoway is survived by his wife of 57 years, Mary Ellen Reinhard Jackoway; son Jim; two daughters, Paula Young of Boulder, Colo., and Laura Ludvigsen of Richmond; and six grandchildren and step-grandchildren.
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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to F.T. Rea as Frank Rey. We regret to error.