Happy Birthday, Texas TV/Radio Icon Jud Ashmore Turns 99

Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Texas radio and television legend meteorologist Jud Ashmore in front of good folks in the Hill Country community of Medina.

“I grew up on watching Jud giving his trademark entertaining forecasts,” Dodie recalled. “What a delight to see him so dapper and charming again.”

Dodie Dennis with her all time favorite meteorologist, Jud Ashmore.

My grandmother, Ruby Floyd, would often bypass news and sports at 10 pm. on the 1970s San Antonio KENS-TV 5 newscasts, but NEVER missed an Ashmore weather forecast.

She couldn’t wait for him to give the temperature way far away in Muleshoe, Texas.

Today, he shrugs Muleshoe off as “just an ol’ gimmick that viewers seemed to go for,” but it seemed to work as the memories remain in the hearts and minds of thousands of viewers and fans.

Grandmother was especially thrilled when at the end of each forecast, he would point at the camera and advise everyone to “hug someone. It’ll make you feel great!”

Born April 11, 1924 in Oakford, Illinois, by age 5, on his family farm Jehu D. Ashmore became enamored with their Super Hetrodyne 50-tube radio.

“I could see the dial at eye level,” Jud grinned. “The radio became my friend throughout my life.”

Life wasn’t always easy, but it taught Jud many lessons and fostered a spirit of enthusiasm and smarts.

His mother died when he was a freshman in high school.

“I was somewhat excitable and hard to contain and my dad went to work on the Alaskan Highway,” he explained. “I became sort of a hobo with a traveling spirit” and began hitching rides on trains.

He found himself in Dodge City, Kansas at the Union Pacific Railroad Depot.

“The sheriff marched us in his patrol car and took us all to jail,” he noted. “That was followed by a Lamar, Colorado night in jail.”

“Then I went north to Duluth, Minnesota. It was a cold, rainy night. I’ll never forget they served us that warm bean soup,” he smiled. “I volunteered to go to this shanty bar district where two ladies played trumpets announcing our arrival. They went in and collected coins and handouts so we would have something to eat.”

It was 1940 and Jud also ho-boed a train to Miles City, Montana in a boxcar with an Indian boy.

“I found work picking greenbeans for one cent a pound and I could earn 87 cents a day.”

His adventurous spirit called him to follow the historical Lewis and Clark Expedition, so he acquired a kayak kit for “downhill yachting” along the famous route.

With the advent of World War II, Ashmore found himself in the Navy waiting for the preparation of a Landing Craft Infantry (LCI) (in New York) that he would be part of the crew.

“I spent much of my time at the Times Square USO during the day,” he recalled. “It was a nickle to ride the subway. I spent my nights onboard. ”

Finally LCI-476 was ready for war and they embarked for service in the Pacific via Key West, Florida.

“It was in West Panama on Christmas Eve and my watch got liberty,” he grinned with a sparkle in his eyes. “I snuck a half pint inside my uniform collar and another in the back of my pants.”

“The guards upon our return were savy,” Ashmore explained. “They whacked us with clubs on both the collar and on the butt. You just don’t know how difficult it is to walk with whiskey and broken glass in your shorts.”

LCI-476 went up to San Diego where he volunteered to learn underwater diving.

“I always volunteered for just about everything I could,” he said. “I never wanted to pass up a chance for adventure, to be helpful and learn something.”

The ship also went to Pearl Harbor and the Marshall Islands.

“We found ourselves on Tarawa, an island that had been captured a few weeks earlier,” he recalled.

“Preparing to leave, we tried to haul up the anchor, but it wouldn’t budge,” he noted. “It obviously fouled on something.  Now I found out why I was sent to divers school.”

“As I was putting on my diving gear, I couldn’t help but notice that sharks were plentiful and playful in the harbor,” he revealed. “So, I started down the greasy anchor cable while two men on deck with a wobble pump gave me air.  I carried a rope to signal; one pull, give me some slack; two to hold; and three to bring me up.”

 “Going down it kept getting darker and darker, but I could see our anchor fouled in a sunken Japanese ship.  I could not free the anchor and would need some tools.”

“Not sure of the depth, but breathing was difficult.  I knew we had a spare anchor but could not cut the cable.  I surfaced and got the tools needed to free the anchor and went back down.”

“As a kid I had seen movie serials on Saturday afternoons where a diver went down and just as an octopus was about to grab him, it would end until the next chapter next week.”

“I somehow just knew there was an octopus down there that had been waiting for me for several years, or a hungry shark that wanted an afternoon snack.  To say I was scared is an understatement, but not going down was not an option.  I finally freed the anchor and we were on our way.”

He mentioned that other than trying to stay away from sharks and octopus, the only real recreation out in the Pacific came from the fading in and out signals of a radio.

After WW II, Jud went to college in 1946 and studied meteorology. He later joined the Air Force as a meteorologist. After retiring from the USAF in 1968 as a Lieutenant Colonel, he became a TV weatherman at KSAT-12 in San Antonio within two days.

Jud and Jack in Medina

A few weeks later, Jud started doing weather reports on KITE Radio working with radio legends Ricci Ware and Paul Allen English. Jud says it was a dream come true to be on the radio. TV was nice, but it didn’t compare.

During his spare time he also authored a book, “Texas Weather.”

Later at KENS-TV, he was billed as, “When you’re ready for weather, you’re ready for Jud Ashmore.” 

I recently polled my social media friends and Clever Journeys readers from Texas. By far, Jud Ashmore was at the top for all time meteorologist, Chris Marrou (best ever news anchor) and Dan Cook (sportscaster). All were with KENS-TV and known for their ad-libs just before commercial breaks and at the end of each broadcast.

Dan Cook, once talking about the early days at KENS-TV, said, “We kept giving them champagne and violins when what they wanted was whiskey and trombones. This is San Antonio, after all.”

San Antonio got exactly what they wanted when KENS hired  Bob Rogers as news director in 1970. He moved into action with Marrou, Cook and Ashmore.

Jud’s sense of humor and on-air personality were a hit with viewers and he began moonlighting on KBUC radio station and found even more fame with his own morning show with partner Ricci Ware.

Ashmore told the story of when Ricci Ware filled in for him on TV. “One night he walked in with a pistol, cap guns, on each hip and went out and did the weather. He took those guns and fired at the weather screen. He got everybody’s attention that way. He was a master at that. Ricci was a great promoter, especially with those racetracks.”

Jud with Ricci Ware

In 1970 Jud had moved away to work in radio and TV in Indianapolis and then in San Francisco. They were great markets, but they weren’t for Jud. So, at the first opportunity, in 1972, he returned to San Antonio and became the chief meteorologist at KENS-TV.

In 1974, he was teamed again with Ricci Ware for that morning show on KBUC Radio. Jud says the two had the “market cornered on B.S. and romance with that show.”

By 1980 working late nights at KENS and early mornings on KBUC began to take its toll and Jud knew he had to make a move … one way or the other.

“I was getting maybe four hours of sleep each night, so the choice between radio and TV was no contest. Radio was more fun and more profitable.”  He left KENS and remained at KBUC until it sold in 1986.

Jud at Medina TX library

That year, Jud moved to powerhouse News Radio 1200 WOAI broadcasting weather reports until 2002. After two years in fake retirement, Jud went back to work, this time at KRNH in Kerrville. In 2012 he ended his career but not his love affair with radio.

“When I was first in the Navy, they had us sailors all lined up and told us to divide up: Jews on the right, Catholics on the left and Christians up here,” he gestured. “So everyone went where they were directed to, but me. I just stayed in place.”

“Which one are you, Ashmore, a Jew, Catholic or Christian?”

“Well, I’m not sure, Sir. We were Seventh Day Adventist when I was little, Sir.”

“Well, move on over there with the Christians then!”

“Yes, Sir,” Jud said, gesturing a salute.

Toward the end of speaking at the Medina Library Rodney Camp Pavilion, with honest sincerity, Jud thanked the audience of citizens.

“Your taxes paid for me,” he began. “If it wasn’t for your support, my college classes, books and studies would have not been possible. Any success that ever came to me is because of you. American citizens. American taxpayers. And I thank you.”

“Every night I pray,” Jud announced. “I pray to two people: The Creator and Jesus. You know, I still study science and I know science is not possible without God, our Creator. We have to have faith. Science upholds and proves creation.”

IN GOD WE TRUST

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7 comments

  1. Excellent Blog Entry, keeps one’s interest in a positive way. Very Interesting person, Jud. Great seeing Jack and Dodie in the Blog images.

    Ben Stein vs. Richard Dawkins Interview

    The video above is included due to Jud’s comment:
    “You know, I still study science and I know science is not possible without God, our Creator.”

    I don’t think God has hidden His existence (mentioned by the atheist professor in the video), I think evidence of His existence is everywhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Happy birthday, Jud! You got me interested in meteorology with your on-air explanations of weather phenomenon enough to make me join the USAF and retire after a 24 year career. Thank you, sir and God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

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