Del Lewis, founder of KTVK Channel 3, dies at age 96
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- A founder and former president and general manager of KTVK Channel 3 died earlier this week. Delbert “Del” R. Lewis passed away on Wednesday at 96 years old. Through the earliest years of television, Lewis helped build KTVK into a powerhouse in network ratings and one of the top independent television stations in the nation.
Lewis was born in California in 1926 before his family moved to Arizona when he was a toddler. His father and two uncles opened an auto repair shop, the Blue Diamond Garage, in downtown Phoenix. However, the Great Depression forced the family to move to Florence, Arizona, before Lewis went to live with his mother in south Phoenix.
Lewis graduated from Phoenix Union High School at 17 years old and joined the Navy. He was sent to the South Pacific Island of Tinian to build barracks and runways. He then returned to Florence, where he met his future wife, Jewell, the daughter of former Sen. Ernest McFarland. The two attended the University of Arizona and then moved to Washington, DC.
However, the two then moved back to Florence after his father-in-law, McFarland, asked him to work on political campaigns. When McFarland lost the election to Barry Goldwater in 1952, McFarland and Lewis decided to use connections gained from the election to seek a license for a TV station, family says. In the end, they gained Phoenix KTVK Channel 3 and ABC. Lewis became the station’s president and general manager all while running a cotton business.
Lewis is survived by his wife Sharron, four children and grandchildren.
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