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Jim Ross Lightfoot

This is a little long. but the only thing I have to grab quickly.
I took my first breath in a Home for Unwed Mothers. A wonderful farm couple, who were unable to bear children, adopted me and gave me the terrific experience of growing up on a farm.

Following an excellent old-fashioned education from a public school staffed with people who wanted to teach and a “Board of Education” with a nice handle hanging on the Principal’s door jamb, I joined the US Army. In the mid-fifties, the Draft was still in place. A prospective employer’s first question is, “Have you completed your military obligation?” If your answer was “no,” the employer had the same solution for you.

After the Army, I worked at several jobs on a part-time basis while looking around for something good and permanent

IBM thought I would make a good Customer Engineer and took me on at their office in Omaha, NE. They trained me at the extensive IBM facility in Lexington, KY.

I had heard that IBM stood for I’ve Been Moved. They were correct.

After a little over a year in Omaha, I found myself in the beautiful city of Tulsa, OK. My wife and I enjoyed the city very much. Things were going exceptionally well at IBM, then it happened.

The front office was going to transfer me to Selma, AL. I watched the news and had no desire to move to Selma. Refusing a transfer was the same as walking into the front office and saying, “I quit!” I declined the transfer.

We had a neighbor down the street who was a Sargent on the Tulsa Police Department. He informed me they were hiring. Since I had actually enjoyed my time in the Army, this seemed like a good opportunity for me.

I took the test, along with some 400 other people. A few days later, I received an invitation for a personal interview. That led to being hired, going through the Department’s Academy, and then being assigned to District Adam. My call sign was Adam-four. The shift appointed was “graveyard.”

Yes! That’s when the nasty stuff happened, and I was given the opportunity to help the citizens of Tulsa sleep at night.

The job was fantastic. I enjoyed it very much. However, the wife wasn’t happy with the pay, so eventually, I left to save the marriage.

While being a police officer, I met a young man working at KRMG radio. He had me do the voice on a couple of projects he was working on. I spent quite a few hours hanging out with him at the studio.

Finding myself unemployed, it was job hunt time. The time spent at KRMG heightened my interest in broadcasting. My friend at KRMG handed me a trade paper containing an open job in Colorado Springs, CO. I had loved the Springs ever since my folks took me there on one of their rare vacations when I was in high school.

The ad said they wanted an experienced announcer. That was the one thing I didn’t have, experience. Nothing to lose; give it a try.

The Program Director ushered me into a studio and handed me some news copy straight off the wire service and a couple of pieces of advertising copy. So far, so good, no questions about the experience.

After reading and recording the material I had been handed, the Program Director came back into the studio with a big smile on his face.

“When can you start?”

Whoopee made it without anyone asking if I had experience!

After a few years, the Station Manager called us all into his office to announce he would automate the station. If we obtain First Class Engineer licenses, he would consider keeping us on. At the time, it was nearly a year to go to school and get a license.

Out of work again.

I headed back to Iowa, where, at least, I knew a few people.

After serious thought and much consternation, the decision was made to take a shot at KMA. This was an old-line station, put on the air in 1925. Many musicians got their start at KMA. The Everly Brothers sang on the air with their Dad, Ike. They lived just down the street from my grandmother. When I visited her, it was a short trip down the alley to the brother’s home. We played in the alley for hours.

An Announcer was leaving for a job in Omaha. I got hired to fill his position. My time at KMA was 13 years. I applied for and was moved to the Associate Farm Director position during that time.

In the 1970s, the manager of a large manufacturing company in town approached me to move to Texas, build, and then manage a manufacturing company.

After I accepted his offer, a year was spent in the home plant learning the business from the shipping ramp, the manufacturing process and time in the front office learning the paperwork process.

The drive to Texas was made with a truck and trailer combination. All the things I would need to set up the new plant were in the trailer.

After hiring a few employees, the plant’s construction in a new, large building owned by the local Economic Commission was started in earnest. The people I had hired exceeded my expectations, and we finished the plant ahead of schedule.

Startup first-year sales were projected to be $800,000. It turned out to be $1,000,000 plus. The good news is it just continued to grow.

Six years later, the sky fell in. The owner of the company sold the entire business to the Wickes Corporation. They were losing their shirt in the modular home business. The strategy to resolve that situation was to buy as many profitable manufacturing companies as possible, then drain their profits to make Wickes’ bottom line appear solid and very much in the black.

Instantly, my bonus disappeared, cost of construction materials was being charged to my plant that we did not have. Add insult to injury; we were out of certain items needed for our products’ manufacturing process. Many of the old employees were jumping ship.

I joined them as Wickes continued to suck our company dry.

Back to Iowa, where we purchased a sessional ice cream store that had been the hot spot in town for many years. I approached KMA for a part-time position to fill the wintertime income gap. The manager wanted me to come back full-time. Their Associate Farm Director had left for a loan officer position at one of the local banks. I told him that I would be happy to handle the job during the winter months, but come Spring; I was gone.

He took me on part-time for the winter.

We were starting the final week of our agreement. One morning, early in the week, the Station Manager came into the Farm Department office. He wanted to know if I had changed my mind.

When I told him “no,” he wanted to know what size salary it would take to get me back full time? I shot him a high enough number I was certain May Broadcasting would not pay it. The radio business is famous for paying abysmal wages unless you go to the big city and get hired by one of the networks.

The manager left our office a bit deflated, and I also sensed some anger in his voice.

Later in the week, with only a couple of days left, the manager stepped into the Farm Office before I left the station and asked if the number I had given him to stay was still good. Caught a bit unaware, I stammered out something that sounded positive to him.

Wham! A big slap on the back, and he was out the door. I heard a “You are hired” as he walked down the hallway.

Associate Farm Director, opening an ice cream shop; what else was this summer going to bring?

A few years into this scenario, my wife decided she wanted to open a ladies' lingerie store. Neither of us knew anything about this type of business; also, interest rates were north of 20%.

We decided to tackle the project. When I wasn’t attending some farm meeting, I worked at night to paint, build dressing rooms, and install accent lighting. I also was overseeing a remodeling of the ice cream store.

The store worked, and eventually, we had three stores, all successful.

1984 rolled around, and I was pursued as a potential candidate for the US House of Representatives. I knew nothing about politics, especially at this high level. We weren’t rich or had any rich friends.

Eventually, I decided to make the run with my family’s support.

It was at the height of the farm crisis. Banks were collapsing, farmers were losing their farms, and some main street merchants were closing their stores for the last time.

We raised the quarter-million dollars needed one small donation at a time. When it was over, we averaged $17 per donation. I believed that they would ride the train if they bought a ticket. They did!

Elected to Congress, I spent the 12 years promised to the folks at home and then voluntarily left. I believe strongly in Term Limits.

After Congress, I was employed as Vice President of Forensic Technology Inc., home-based in Montreal, Canada.

We worked worldwide to establish ballistic identification centers next to none. FTI was sold to a company named Ultra. They have continued to build on the FTI foundation and now have 52 countries on the IBIS system.

After 13 years with FTI, I retired to our home in east Texas.

Fill my time writing everything from op-eds to a book.

Contrary to Internet rumors, I do not have a huge retirement income. We live on Social Security and a small annuity policy I purchased many years ago. So, if someone out there needs a writer, please let me know. A little extra change would feel really good in my pocket.

May 18, 2022

Episode #25 - Jim Lightfoot

In this 25th Episode of the RF Factor, George and Pete welcome distinguished guest and former Member of Congress Jim Ross Lightfo…

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