Airing Editor Tells His Own Story

Larry A. Quinn is retiring as editor of Airing on the Side of Agriculture with this issue.

Quinn grew up on a wheat and grain sorghum farm during the Dust Bowl ’50s. His parents and grandparents survived as farmers during the Dust Bowl ’30s. At age 17, two weeks after graduating from Guymon, Oklahoma, High School, he was hired as an announcer/disc jockey by KGYN Radio, his hometown station. Station Manager Herb Noyes recruited him based on his 4-H public speaking achievements. On that day in May 1963, Quinn was returning from an invitation to present his award-winning talk on banking to the Oklahoma Bankers Association. Noyes auditioned Quinn and hired him on the spot to begin work in two weeks.

Noyes told Quinn that if the job didn’t work out, they would part friends, but he warned that if Quinn got radio into his blood that he’d never get it out. Looking back, he sees that prediction was true.

During his four years with KGYN, Quinn earned his B.S. in agronomy at Oklahoma Panhandle State University, where he was named outstanding agronomy student his junior and senior years and was chosen Outstanding Graduating Senior. Following his graduation in 1967, Quinn accepted a civilian public information specialist position with the U.S. Air Force at Kelly AFB in San Antonio, Texas, where he developed a news beeper service for local radio stations. Christine Dany was a student intern in that information office.

“Her desk faced mine,” Quinn said. “She was hard to overlook. She has been my wife for 51 years.”

In 1968, Quinn accepted a position with the Department of Agricultural Communications at Texas A&M University, first as field editor and then he became the department’s first extension radio-TV specialist. He revamped their radio services and created a TV news service.

On August 22, 1970, he and Christine were married. While they both worked for the university, they pursued their master’s degrees in educational public relations. They both wrote their theses at the same time and graduated together. Besides getting married in 1970, Larry joined NAFB and attended the final convention held in Chicago.

Hal Taylor and Layne Beaty recruited Quinn to become head of USDA’s Television Service in the Office of Information. He established a TV news service which required travel to 27 states during his first two years. He was a co-host to USDA’s TV programs: Across the Fence/A Better Way and Down to Earth. During his 35 years at USDA, he provided communication support to 13 secretaries of agriculture — from Earl Butz to Tom Vilsack. He was the regular host/moderator for tele-news conferences with broadcasters and reporters for his final four secretaries.

During his tenure, Quinn and his staff developed live, full-motion video conference capabilities.  President Ronald Reagan came to USDA’s studio to broadcast information about the 1985 Farm Bill with Secretary John Block. Upon his retirement on September 30, 2009, the department renamed the facility the Larry A. Quinn USDA TV Studio.

For 15 years, Quinn wrote the “Off Mike” column on the back page of USDA’s Broadcasters Letter.

“That was a good warmup for editing Airing on the Side of Agriculture,” Quinn said.