Jack Armstrong, the ‘Father of TVHamilton,’ dies at 78

Credit: Samantha Grier

Credit: Samantha Grier

Armstrong was TVHamilton’s first director.

Jack Armstrong was proud of what TVHamilton became, an idea that was spawned by city and school leaders in the late 1980s.

Former Hamilton City Manager Hal Shepherd said while leaders of Hamilton wanted a community television station, it was Armstrong’s creativity and personality that made TVHamilton a success. Armstrong died on Tuesday, Aug. 23. He was 78.

“I think Jack’s hiring was invaluable to the future success of TVHamilton,” said Shepherd. “I was glad we found someone to take on a difficult project and made it a success. Jack will forever be the Father of TVHamilton.”

Armstrong’s video expertise came from decades behind the camera locally at WCPO and WLWT, as well as for NBC Sports. Though he was passionate about his work, he was just as passionate about music.

Armstrong graduated from the Cincinnati Art Academy and the University of Cincinnati in graphic design. He also attended the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, studying advanced percussion studies. That love of music stayed with him throughout his life, even though he may not have been actively playing.

ExploreJACK ARMSTRONG: Offer your condolences on the online Tribute Wall

He was able to read music as a child, said Betty Armstrong, his widow, and that skill was useful when traveling bands and orchestras traveling through or based in Hamilton needed a player to sit in.

“He would play with these bands, even though he was quite young,” she said.

Armstrong became a member of the American Federation of Musicians Local 31 at age 13. He eventually would play with The Hamilton-Fairfield Symphony Orchestra, The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and The Dayton Philharmonic.

Betty grew up with Jack, but they didn’t reconnect until later in life, at their 40th Taft High School reunion. Five months later they were married. Though she didn’t want to stay in their hometown, “He was never going to leave Hamilton.”

Leaving TVHamilton in 2009, she said, “was hard, but it was time.”

TVHamilton was designed to be a communication tool where the city and school governments can provide more information to the citizens of the city. Armstrong ― who also ran an advertising business and later worked at West Side Federal S & L as a senior vice president ― was the first director of TVHamilton and created and developed Hamilton’s local-origination community Cablevision, running the station until he retired in 2009.

ExploreFROM THE ARCHIVES: TvHamilton founder, director stepping down (Journal-News, 2009)

“We had not tried anything like that before to provide information and local coverage of community activities,” said Shepherd. “I was looking for someone with TV production experience, some artistic capabilities, and I knew of Jack’s many talents. I knew his personality and ability to work with people. The city was the major player in the development of TVHamilton, but we also needed the Hamilton School District as we housed the beginning at Hamilton High School.”

Armstrong was a Hamiltonian through and through. And he, according to Steve Colwell, the current TVHamilton director and Armstrong’s first hire at the station, “was a pioneer in video.”

“He was at Channel 9 when they switched from film to video. He was just a pioneer of video to begin with,” he said.

Armstrong was born, raised, worked, and lived in the city, and eventually became a board member of the Animal Friends Humane Society and Butler Philharmonic and sat on other boards. He was honored by then-Mayor Don Ryan when “Jack Armstrong Day” was proclaimed on Dec. 20, 2003, for his service to the community. He also designed sets for Rotary Revels Productions and Hamilton Civic Theater.

Colwell came on board at the start of his junior year of high school in 1990, and it was Armstrong, he said, who “did almost everything.” But everything produced on TVHamilton “was his brainchild until he retired.”

“Jack was a true professional in what he did. When people think of cable access, and that it is, that’s not us. That’s not what TVHamilton is,” said Colwell, adding he learned more from Armstrong than what he did in high school and college. “That’s something that he fought harder for than anything, was to not be a public access quality.”

Armstrong is survived by his wife, Betty, his daughter, Jill Ann Armstrong of Oak Ridge, Tenn., Sallie Nelson Conyers, and Jill Nelson Aston, and many other friends and family members.


REMEMBERING JACK ARMSTRONG

There will be a celebration of Jack’s life at a future date, according to the family. A private graveside service was already held.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Jack’s name to Animal Friends Humane Society, 1820 Princeton Road, Hamilton, OH, 45011.

Online condolences may be left at www.weigelfuneralhome.com.

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