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Saturday, April 20, 2024 at 5:54 AM
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Taylor loses broadcast legend

TIM CROW [email protected]

The Taylor community is mourning the loss of a local TV personality.

Carolyn Jackson, a 1944 Taylor High School graduate, passed away Tuesday, Jan. 16 at her home in Georgetown.

Known as a pioneer in TV and radio, Jackson’s popular TV show, The Carolyn Jackson Show, aired on KTBC Channel 7 in Austin, and later KTVV Channel 36, now known as KXAN.

“Every day at noon, the music for her show would start playing, and her pretty smile would appear on the screen,” said Jane Crow, who remembers watching Jackson on TV during the 1960s and 1970s. “It was always fun to watch, and she interviewed so many guests.”

Former Taylor High School cheerleader Carolyn “Tutta” Jackson leads the Taylor Locomotion cheer at a Homecoming Hall of Fame luncheon. Photo by Tim Crow

Known to local friends by the nickname, Tutta, Jackson is also remembered as a neighbor, friend and a loyal Taylor Duck who attended homecoming every year.

“I’ll never forget the first time I took over the homecoming program from Naomi Pasemann,” said Pat Helbert, coordinator for the THS Ex-Students Association. “Mrs. Jackson called me the Sunday after homecoming to let me know how homecoming went and to share her suggestions. I’ll never forget that. I got instructed by the best.”

A tradition at every homecoming was for all previous cheerleaders to join Jackson at the front of the room as she led the crowd in a popular cheer from the early 1940s, Locomotive with a Quack. Jackson continued the long-standing tradition at this year’s homecoming.

“I remember her smile, energy and love for family and life,” Moppy Miller said. “She never seemed to be afraid to try new things. She had confidence, and I always admired her for that.”

After high school, Jackson was among the first 10 students to graduate with a broadcasting degree from the University of Texas.

While TV was available at that time, it had not yet become popular and the focus of the new broadcasting program was on radio.

Jackson completed the program in three years, and with a broadcasting degree in hand, her first job was at KTAE Radio in Taylor, a new local station that was just getting started.

“KTAE was just getting ready to go on the air,” Jackson said in a 2018 interview. “Gillis Conoley was the owner and manager, and he was looking for someone with training in broadcasting. Mostly, I wrote advertising copy and I had a short segment for household tips. I look back on that and think what a wonderful opportunity that was to watch a station go on the air.”

Jackson later completed her teaching certification and taught at Southside School in Taylor. Then, with experience in both education and radio, she interviewed for her first role in television and was hired to teach library and literature for fourth and fifth graders on KLRU-TV.

After working in educational television, Cactus Pryor with KTBC-TV called and invited Jackson to interview as host for a daily show at noon called, “Woman’s World.”

After a series of onair auditions, Jackson was hired for the role and was voted Favorite TV Host by Austin area viewers.

Jackson quickly became one of the most easily recognized TV personalities in central Texas, and the show was soon renamed, The Carolyn Jackson Show. She interviewed all of Hollywood’s top celebrities at the time, including Richard Pryor, Sally Field, Gene Wilder, Bob Hope, Joe Namath, Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon, the original Star Wars cast and so many more.

After appearing on the show, actress Stephanie Powers accepted an invitation to visit Jackson at her home in Taylor and to experience a small-town celebration for July 4. Powers agreed to serve as the grand marshal in the parade that year, bringing cheers from surprised fans as her car proceeded down Main Street.

Jackson was also in numerous commercials as local sponsors wanted the popular TV host to promote their products. She worked for the Texas Film Commission, was first runner up in the Ms. Senior USA pageant, was a tour director for 65 cruises and she had a small part in a couple of movies including Knight Rider 2000 and Heartbreak Hotel that was filmed at the old middle school on Seventh Street.

Jackson was also involved with the Taylor Community Theater, and she and her husband, Chili, owned Goodies, a popular spot in Taylor for burgers, sandwiches and ice cream along with a game room.

Jackson is often referred to as a pioneer in broadcasting because she opened many doors for women in TV and radio.

“When I started, the only women working there were receptionist and secretaries,” Jackson had said in the 2018 interview. “There were no women who ran camera, no women floor managers, no directors, no newswomen, I was really the only woman on the air. I’m so glad that we were able to start changing that.”

“She was a pioneer, and I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with her several years ago,” said Casey Claiborne, KTBC reporter who interviewed Jackson four years ago about her amazing career. “It’s honestly one of my favorite stories I’ve ever done, if not my absolute favorite.”

In her later years, Jackson continued to be involved with her hometown. In addition to returning for homecoming every year, she also spoke to a class at THS about her career, and she spoke to a group of Taylor ISD employees at the new teacher orientation. She and four classmates returned to Memorial Field for the “Lights Out” last game to serve as honorary captains for the coin toss.

At age 90, Jackson interviewed with Taylor ISD for a video celebrating her life and career. The district celebrated the completion of that video project with a premiere at the Howard Theater. The Carolyn Jackson Story may now be seen on the Taylor ISD YouTube channel.

“She was a legend,” Tim Mikeska said. “In UT Journalism, her broadcast career, her friends, her family and grandchildren, nieces and nephews and as the wife of Chili Jackson. She was a legendary Taylor Duck.”

Carolyn Jackson was on the air in Austin as a daytime lifestyle show host during the late 1960s and 1970s. She interviewed several celebrity guests including legendary comedian Richard Pryor. Courtesy photo
Carolyn Jackson shows her Duck pride during a visit with students from Taylor High School. Photo by Tim Crow

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