Tulsa's First Lady Of Television Dies
By Scott Thompson, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- The woman who brought KOTV to life has died. Maria Helen Alvarez brought local television to Tulsa, while breaking barriers and snapping stereotypes.
No one knew just how TV worked in 1940's Tulsa, but one woman had the ambition to figure it out.
A pioneer in the true "Oklahoma" spirit of the word, Maria Helen Alvarez had spent seven years in radio, and was persuaded by wealthy oilman George Cameron to take a chance on TV.
At just 27 years old, she led the charge to bring her hometown into the age of television.
No article about Alvarez fails to mention her beauty.
A published story reports Alvarez climbing a 400-foot ladder in shorts to inspect the station's broadcast tower.
A stunned workman lost his grip on a wrench and let it fall to the street below, killing a pedestrian from Sapulpa.
Another story recalls engineers so in awe of Alvarez, they finished three month's worth of work in three weeks.
Construction was finished and KOTV had its transmitter up and running before her competitors knew Alvarez had even filed for a license.
KOTV's headquarters was a converted tractor shop.
Alvarez turned the International Harvester dealership into the nation's largest TV broadcast center at the time.
She personally designed the studios with 22-foot ceilings and doors wide enough to welcome parade floats and elephants.
Her effort to get KOTV on the air put Helen Alvarez on the national radar.
She earned a profile in Life Magazine where they dubbed her "Helen of Tulsa."
The face that launched a thousand shows, Alvarez not only served as a writer and producer but KOTV's initial general manager making her the first female chief executive in television, according to the Tulsa World.
Alvarez was a millionaire by age 29.
She found her next challenge in San Diego, where she started new television stations and bailed out Hollywood icon Walt Disney who had run out of money to finish his Disneyland Hotel.
Alvarez bankrolled construction and was there to cut the ribbon in 1955.
She also helped produce popular TV shows during her time in San Diego, The Lone Ranger and Lassie were owned and produced by the company she co-owned.
The Mother of Tulsa TV retired in Southern California and died at home Friday, at the age of 88.