Remembering Charlie Stewart

A Personal Memoir By Rod Rodriguez

I truly enjoyed working at KKYX in the late 1970's but inside I felt that something was missing from my life. Even so, when I finally decided to quit the radio news business to pursue a career as a lawyer, I had my own serious doubts. Charlie Stewart, on the other hand, thought it was a wonderful idea.

By the time I met him, Charlie had been a fixture in Texas Radio News for many years. With a weathered face and a shock of white hair, you could tell he had covered a lot of stories. Before long Charlie took me under his wing and often recounted his long and storied career at a number of stations. He even told me how LBJ himself had fired him from his station in Austin. But rather than being embarrassed, Charlie was proud of that part of his resume and wore it as a badge of honor. And now in the twilight of his career he was "our man at City Hall."

While I was anxious about leaving the station, Charlie was excited for me. In fact he would often tell me what a difference he could have made had he been given the same opportunity. He told me that it was now my turn. So with his help and the encouragement of others, including many of the DJs and news folks, I packed myself off to law school.

I'd like to think that being a courthouse reporter helped me get a leg up and it did to some extent. But with a wife and baby (and another born along the way), it was a tough 3 years. I finally graduated, passed the Texas Bar and opened a small private law practice. And within a few years I landed a job in the legal department of the Resolution Trust Corporation, an agency created by Congress to help deal with the savings and loan crisis. By this time, I was some 15 years removed from my old days at the radio station.

One day over lunch I happened to mention to a fellow lawyer that I once worked at KKYX. That conversation sparked a sudden memory in him. Although my friend was from the east coast, he said his mother had a distant cousin who had been married to a reporter at KKYX. His name was Charles Stewart. My coworker asked if I knew him. Boy, did I! I eagerly responded. It was truly a small world.

My friend informed me that Charlie had passed on a few years back, but asked me if was interested in having lunch with his widow, Louise. Of course, I'd love to. So my friend made the arrangements.

Over lunch, Louise and I reminisced about radio, Charlie's life, and his radio career. We had a great hour chatting away. Then as we were about to leave, Louise handed me a small box. She said she had found it in the closet and told me that Charlie had wanted me to have it. I hugged her and put the box in my suit pocket.

Later that night, I was recounting the lunch time story to my wife. She thought it was a wonderful story about how a chance conversation could bring people and memories together. I thought it was a sort of cosmic connection…one of those things that is just destined to happen. Then, in mid thought, I remembered I still had the box in my pocket. My wife urged me to open it.

I opened the box to find a shiny metal business card holder inside. My name was engraved on the cover. Then I opened the card holder. Inside was Charlie's KKYX business card. It was the same style card as the one I had used back when I left the station.

On the back of the card he had personally written:

"Congratulations Rod, I knew you could do it!"

Nearly 40 years have now passed since I picked up a mike at KKYX, but tears well up every time I think of that case and old Charlie.

It reminds me to this very day that Charlie had more faith and hope in me than I had in myself.

I hope I haven't let him down.

Rod Rodriguez

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Copyright 2012 by Rod Rodriguez and – All Rights Reserved.