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Saturday, January 16, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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William W. Warren, 87, Pioneer In Seattle TV, Radio Broadcasting

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

William W. Warren, who in 53 years as a top executive for Fisher Broadcasting helped create the Northwest's first radio news department as well as KOMO-TV, had a lifelong fascination with broadcasting.

"He was very instrumental in early television and had to go back to Washington, D.C., to testify so KOMO would be granted its license," said his wife of 51 years, Elizabeth Warren of Port Gamble, Kitsap County.

In return for his hard work, Mr. Warren was honored with the Governor's Award of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Peabody Award and the Society of Professional Journalists' distinguished-service award.

That he also was esteemed by community groups such as United Way of King County, Magnolia United Church of Christ and the Rainier Club added luster to his reputation.

"He was a person of absolute integrity," said his wife. "Each of our children used that word about him."

Mr. Warren died last Saturday (Jan. 9) from complications of heart surgery. He was 87.

He was born in Fisher, La., to William Warren and Lula Fisher Warren, whose brothers began the Fisher flour-mills and broadcasting empire. After Mr. Warren's father died when he was 10, the family moved to Seattle so his mother could be closer to her brothers.

Growing up in Seattle, he became entranced with early radio. Mr. Warren and his brother built a crystal receiving set that charmed his uncle O.D. Fisher, who founded the Fisher's Blend (Radio) Station in 1926 when Mr. Warren was still at Broadway High School.

The station took the call letters KOMO and went on the air, partly as an advertising vehicle for Fisher's Blend Flour. The Fishers also then owned KJR-AM (950).

After earning his bachelor's degree in business at the University of Washington in 1933, Mr. Warren joined KOMO and KJR as the stations' research director for radio sales.

Within a year, Mr. Warren became program manager for both stations.

He served in the Navy during World War II.

He resumed work at KOMO Radio and in 1952 was named general manager and executive vice president. He helped start the first radio news department in the Northwest, and directed the development of KOMO-TV in Seattle and KATU-TV in Portland.

He was president and general manager of KOMO Radio and Television from 1962 through 1976, then was elected president and CEO of Fisher Broadcasting.

As chairman of the ABC Television Network Affiliates board of governors, one of his tasks included briefing then-President Nixon about the broadcast industry.

In 1980 he became chairman of the KOMO Broadcasting board. He retired in 1987.

He enjoyed sailing Canadian and Alaskan waters and working on his diesel cruiser.

"He did beautiful woodwork," said his wife. "He made little cupboards for odd places on the boat and a cradle for our daughter's baby girl . . .. When he worked at KOMO he would go down to Lake Union with a bag lunch and tinker. It gave him such pleasure."

Other survivors include his children William W. Warren Jr. of Corvallis, Ore.; Keith Warren, Gresham, Ore.; and Mary Warren Case, Edmonds; and six grandchildren. His son Douglas Warren died in 1976.

Services were held. Remembrances may go to Camp Brotherhood, c/o Chief Seattle Council of the Boy Scouts of America, 3120 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle 98144; or to the Skagit Bald Eagle Preserve, c/o the Nature Conservancy, 217 Pine St., Suite 1100, Seattle 98101.

Carole Beers' phone message number is 206-464-2391. Her e-mail address is: cbeers@seattletimes.com

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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