Ray Norton Telling the Story 

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After a career in broadcasting and owning an advertising agency and a mailing and shipping store, Ray Norton now enjoys retirement, having contributed to the prosperous Rio Grande Valley (RGV).

Originally from Dallas, Norton spent his early life working his way through higher education. In the 1960s, he settled in Houston while attending the University of Houston. He found a job at KMSC Radio in Clear Lake City. The station’s call letters were derived from the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center just across the street. Norton worked at KMSC until he was offered a job at KPRC TV and Radio, one of the leading broadcast news stations in the state.

Norton recalls this opportunity came in 1965, following his work at the home of astronaut Ed White in Houston during the Gemini 3 mission. At the time, in the early days of the space race, launches were landmark events and his supervisor at KMSC had asked Norton to provide coverage from the White home.

“‘The Gemini 3 shot is going up tomorrow morning and Ed White’s one of the astronauts on board… there’s going to be a podium set up on the porch of Ed White’s home.  When someone comes out, his wife or somebody else to make a statement… record everything they have to say. Here’s the important part… there’s only going to be eight telephones and about 30 people that want to use them. So, you’ve got to judge about four or five minutes before they’re finished. You turn the recorder off…run like the devil to the phone…rewind the tape…and play it back to me,'” remembered Norton, the words of his supervisor.

As he worked that evening, Norton received a call that would mark his breakthrough in radio and television news.

“Is this the Ray Norton that was at the Ed White home earlier today?” He said yes. The voice on the phone then said, “This is Ray Miller, News Director for KPRC TV and Radio in Houston. How would you like to move up to the big time?”

After a moment of astonished silence, Norton said yes and agreed to an interview appointment at KPRC. He started by reporting radio news and aiding in producing television news programs. Eventually, Norton performed outside reporter duties and was given a report on the 6 p.m. television news broadcast. Before his first broadcast on camera, Norton received the most influential advice in his broadcast news career from veteran anchor Larry Rasco at KPRC TV.

Rasco said, “The first thing that’s going to run through your mind when you look into the camera lens, is you’ve got 100,000 people watching.” He said, “That may well be true… but that’s not the way communication works in this business.  It works one person at a time.  So, if you can simply imagine that lens as your best friend in this whole world and all you’re doing is telling them what you know that they don’t know, then you’ll be a success”. Norton remembers that advice was like turning a light bulb on in his head.

Norton continued working in Houston, moving from various jobs and positions within the broadcasting industry. In 1970, he received an offer at KRGV TV and Radio in Weslaco, where he used his prior expertise to revitalize the failing television news department.

In Jan. 1971, Norton quickly realized Channel 5 News had an identification problem.

His solution:

“I created a news desk that was a number five. It was big…the news anchor sat in the curl of five in front. Sports guy on one corner in the back, weather guy on the other corner in the back. The opening shot came from way up above. We put a camera way up there and we called it Big Five news. We won the 6 o’clock news ratings in November of that year and never lost the lead while I was employed by the station”.

Norton continued to work for six years in radio and television throughout the RGV. However, sensing limited advancement, switched to advertising, drawing from experience gained in the broadcasting industry to effectively operate the agency for 20 years.

According to Norton, his remarkable ability to interact with others contributed to his success in mass communication.

“I believe that I was given a gift… to be able to stand in front of a group of people, be it 5 people or 75,000 people, and communicate. That gift has allowed me to be successful in several businesses and continues to benefit the community at large.”