MT. VERNON — Businessman and community leader Russ Withers passed away Friday night at the home of his daughter after a long illness.
“Mt. Vernon and this area have lost a great man,” said Sam Mateer, longtime friend and business associate. “Russ had a beautiful smile, a great sense of humor and a sharp wit. He was bright, logical and systematic in his thinking. He was passionately interested in making Mt. Vernon and Jefferson County a better place to live by helping to create jobs.”
Withers is best known locally as the founder and owner of Withers Broadcasting companies, including WMIX AM-FM of Mt. Vernon. According to information from the National Association of Broadcasters, at the time of his death he owned six television stations and 30 radio stations in seven states.
Withers began his career in broadcasting as an announcer/salesman at KGMO in his hometown of Cape Girardeau, Mo. In 1961, Withers joined LIN Broadcasting in Nashville as a disc jockey, moving up the ranks to sales and became vice president in 1963. He founded the cable TV division of the company and was president of Schertle Galleries, a subsidiary of LIN, and franchised 100 art galleries, according to information from the NAB.
He was chairman and CEO of Withers Beverage Corporation of Mobile, Ala., vice president and board member of Turneffe Island Lodge Ltd., a fishing lodge in Belize and chairman and CEO of Productos de Atlanticos, S.A., Costa Rica, a lobster processing company. He founded Withers Broadcasting Companies in 1972.
Withers was considered a pioneer of the broadcasting industry, serving as chairman of the Mutual Broadcasting affiliate board for 16 years; and as a board member for the NAB, Illinois Broadcasters Association, the NAB Political Action Committee and the Associated Press Broadcast Board.
Withers served the Mt. Vernon and Jefferson County community throughout his life.