I can't say I knew Carl Lee. In fact, I can only say I met him once. But his reputation - and that of his boss, broadcasting pioneer John Fetzer - certainly preceded him. Fetzer saw potential to affect how west Michiganders got their news and information way back in the 1920s. He got hold of a broadcasting license and put radio station WKZO on the air in Kalamazoo in 1931. Then, with television beginning to become popular, he put what is now WWMT on the air. When cable TV came along, Fetzer got in on that act, too.

Fetzer also saw the potential in Carl Lee. In 1939, Lee graduated from The Michigan Academy of Radio Science, began working for Fetzer Broadcasting, and in a mere 19 years became Fetzer's right-hand man - the executive vice president of Fetzer Broadcasting and Fetzer Television Co. He would become president of the company in 1973, eventually buying it from Fetzer - to say nothing of how he influenced the industry by being active in organizations like the Michigan Association of Broadcasters (helping to found it, even). Lee sold the company in the early 1990's.

By the time I arrived in west Michigan in 1997, it was a post-Fetzer/Lee era. But, working with people like Karl Guenther, Gary Lange and Dave Jaconette, I learned quickly about the pioneers for whom they had worked - and was able to develop an immediate appreciation.

Carl Lee chats with broadcaster Dave Jaconette in 2001. Photo courtesy Fairfield Broadcasting Company/Stephen C. Trivers LLC.

All of us in local broadcasting - and those who rely on it - can thank John Fetzer and Carl Lee for paving the way.

Hear The Richard Piet Show weekday mornings from 5:30-9 on WBCK.