John T. Rutledge 1924-2005
John Rutledge presents George Stuart (seated) with a commission
as a Kentucky Colonel.
Here is a billboard that Clear Channel has erected in Ocala in honor of John
John Thomas Rutledge, 80
Mr. John Thomas Rutledge, Ocala, died on January 29, 2005. John, the husband of Cassandra, was an area broadcasting executive, with Asterisk Communications. He was a former resident of Orlando from 1958 until 1986.
John was born on February 5, 1924, and raised in the Cincinnati Ohio area, the only son of John James Rutledge and Luella Smith Rutledge. He entered the entertainment business at an early age. While in high school, John joined Harry Blackstone Sr.’s magic show and toured the United States as a cast member, achieving notoriety as the man who disappeared off the end of a rope. He always liked to tell friends that the last thing Blackstone said to him when the false curtain dropped was, “for goodness sakes, don’t wiggle skinny.”
John was finally captured by his parents and finished high school in 1942. He entered the US military serving in the U.S. Maritime Service and then the US Navy during World War II. John was a Pharmacist’s Mate Third Class and served in the Pacific Theater aboard the USS Saugus until the end of the war.
Following his military service, John attended Evansville
College and began working in the broadcasting business. He sold radio advertising for
WVJS-AM 1420 in Owensboro, KY eventually becoming sales manager. In 1958, John joined Bluegrass Broadcasting Company and moved to Orlando where he managed
990 and WHOO-FM 96.5 as well as another station in the Florida Keys.
In 1965, John purchased WLOF-AM
950 “Channel 95” in Orlando which became a nationally known success story in the broadcasting business. John also put
WLOF-FM 100.3, Winter Park, on the air during this period and purchased additional properties.
John sold WLOF at the height of its popularity and moved into the Miami, Tampa-St. Petersburg and Louisville, KY radio markets purchasing additional properties there with his close friend
Joe Field of West Palm Beach.
John eventually settled in the Ocala area and was a consultant for the Ingham family of Ft. Lauderdale, owners of
Asterisk Communications. John assisted the Inghams with the purchase of additional stations in the Ocala/Gainesville area and their success today is a testimony to his dedication to the radio business. Their properties included
WTRS-FM 102.3, “Thunder Country,” WMFQ-FM
92.9, “Big Oldies,” WBXY-FM 99.5, “Star 99.5,” and
WXJZ-FM 100.9, “Smooth Jazz.” He was at his desk the day before he died. He truly loved to go to the office and told his sons, many times, that he intended to work until his death.
John’s love of competition and the radio business is legendary among his peers throughout the United States. He was particularly dedicated to his colleagues who made his efforts a success. This extended from a manager to a receptionist. He was a fair and honest man and felt that his customers always got their money’s worth when they invested in his product, which was entertainment on the radio.
John also loved history and particularly geography. He could name the capital and geographic characteristics of virtually any country in the world. He was also fond of big band tunes and kept an extensive collection which was required listening when visiting at his home in Ocala.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by three sons, their spouses and children, Steven T., Lucie and John Thomas II, of Memphis, TN, John J. II, Julia, Thomas C. and Beth Anne of Orlando, Thomas Smith, Ami, Christopher and Wendy, Green Turtle Cay,
Abacos, The Bahamas as well as his former wife, Mary Lou Rutledge of Orlando. He is also survived by his step-daughters
Jetta Sharpe and Dana McFadden of Altamonte Springs, FL, and Autumn McFadden of Miami Beach.
He is pre-deceased by his son Jay Frederic Rutledge who he missed terribly and spoke of often.
John owned a home in the Abacos for many years and loved visiting the area, particularly with his sons. He was a former member of the
University Club of Orlando as well as The
Country Club of Orlando.
One of John’s proudest achievements was his association with Alcoholics Anonymous. He was a devoted follower of Bill W’s philosophy and it served him well.
He will be missed by all who knew and loved him. His life was “Virtually Perfect.”
A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, February 1, 2005 at 3:30pm at
Hiers Funeral Home, 910 SE Silver Springs Blvd., Ocala, FL 34470. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the
American Heart Association.
Steve Rutledge on his dad.
Well, I'm sad to tell his friends that he left us this morning about 9:45a in Ocala. He had been doing well, worked last week but it all came to an end, pretty quickly this morning. I know you will appreciate this....his program director met the rescue
unit at the hospital. He said my father was barking orders regarding a king size bed, etc. virtually until the last second. Shane was holding his hand when he died. He didn't suffer. I can't think of a better way for him to go. My brother Tom and I are
headed to Ocala from Memphis. My brother John, unfortunately, wasn't quite to the hospital when he died. I want all of you to know how much he cared about all of you and how gratifying it was for all of us to be able to get together and talk about what we enjoyed so much.
From Bill Vermillion
While humming that old rock song Yackety Yacc - Don't Awk Back Steve Rutledge sang or SED something like this:
Well, I'm sad to tell his friends that he left us this morning about 9:45a in Ocala. He had been doing well, worked last week but it all came to an end, pretty quickly this morning.
I want all of you to know how much he cared about all of you and how gratifying it was for all of us to be able to get together and talk about what we enjoyed so much.
I am so sorry to hear this. John was the greatest person I've ever worked for and I'll never forget him. He'll truly be missed.
My condolences to your family.
Jerry "Pat O'Day" Thompson
I never liked Sinatra, especially his "I Did It My Way. "If ever a man was qualified to sing that song, it would be John T. Rutledge. Don't know about his singing ability, but he was one unique man and a hell of a boss. I owe him lots.
Jerry "Pat O'Day" Thompson
WLOF: 1965 - 1973
Dick "Dick Shane" Camnitz
I am sorry to hear of the passing of John Rutledge former manager of both WHOO and owner/manager of WLOF Radio. John Rutledge greatly impacted the Central Florida Broadcast community as a whole, the business community and our broadcast history. Everyone who worked for/with him learned something, some saw him as a business leader but to many in our youth, nearly a father figure. He certainly did a great job keeping a large number of "creative types" in line. Then we all went out to conquer the world and seldom kept touch with the family. I'm glad I had the chance to work for him and that family.
Rest in Peace John Rutledge
May I add my personal condolences to Steve and the Rutledge Family on the loss of his Father. I never had the privilege of meeting John Rutledge, but I am aware from the many tributes he has received on the site over the past year what a very influential figure he was on radio in Orlando, and how much of a positive and personal influence he was on many of our members.
It was in 1966 when Violet Sidebottom told me about telling "JT" that I had come to WLOQ for a job interview and wasn't
wearing socks, to which he said "hire him!". At that time he would wear expensive suits, and shoes but NO socks. My thoughts are with Steve and the family.
Peter Jay # ? (WLOF)
Read more on John Rutledge here. John Rutledge Biography