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Voice of The (Anchorage) Times on broadcast pioneer Augie Hiebert

Posted: Tuesday, January 02, 2001

The state presented its highest award, the Legion of Merit, to broadcast pioneer Augie Hiebert in a ceremony at Camp Denali on Fort Richardson last week -- a most deserving honor to a most deserving man.

It was an emotional moment for Hiebert when the medal was given to him as he sat in the wheelchair to which he is temporarily confined while recovering from a small stroke.

He clearly struggled to hold back tears as he -- a truly modest and humble man -- received accolades that, at this particular ceremony, dealt with his leadership in developing a system to provide emergency communication services to villages in the far corners of Alaska.

Prior to the award, Hiebert pushed the button that inaugurated what is called the Alaska Mini-Radio Service. The first connection was between the state's Emergency Communication Center at the National Guard headquarters and the village of Shishmaref, in Northwest Alaska.

Hiebert, retired owner of Northern Television, worked for more than four years to get all the federal and state clearances needed to create the new warning system. Eventually, it will embrace every village in the state.

This is not the first time that Hiebert's broadcast expertise and his dedication to Alaska have paid off in a miracle for the benefit of all.

He came to Alaska before World War II as a radio engineer in Fairbanks -- and while working at his station on Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941, he picked up the first report of the raid on Pearl Harbor. His call to military leaders here gave them the first word of the attack that plunged America into war.

He later built something of a broadcast empire headquartered in Anchorage -- with radio stations here, in Fairbanks and in Juneau. And when commercial television came along, he was in the front rank of pioneers who introduced black-and-white, then color, and then live TV services to Alaska.

Over the years, he fought some gallant battles to maintain the integrity of the broadcast industry in Alaska -- and in the process, became a powerful and respected voice in the industry nationwide and among the government officials and agencies regulating radio and television.

Slight of stature, soft of voice, mild of manner, Augie Hiebert doesn't look like a hero.

But he is, in every sense of the word.

The Legion of Merit he received simply recognizes what his friends and colleagues have long known.

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