Sam Jones is a television legend in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He began his career working in radio and television in Arkansas, eventually in production, as a reporter, and weekend anchor for KTHV-TV the CBS affiliate in Little Rock. His beat became state government with a focus on the Governor’s office. In 1976 he was promoted to the Monday through Friday prime anchor spot. After six months he was offered the additional duties of Assistant News Director.
Not long after this promotion news came of the American Embassy takeover in Iran. Three military personnel and one political prisoner were from Arkansas. The station sent Sam to what was then West Germany to cover their pending release. The first time was a false alarm, but the second time they were released, and he was there for their arrival. In addition to stories he sent to his home state by satellite, he soon found himself a junior member of the CBS news team as a stringer. He filed stories for both his station in Little Rock and for CBS news. He was sent to Washington, D.C. to cover the official “welcome home” ceremonies at the White House.
Sam Jones was recruited to work at KJRH-TV Tulsa in 1981 as their evening anchor. He started covering city and county government. His goals were evident: to tell stories about the treasures of Oklahoma, the people and their day to day accomplishments. Sam quickly became known as a man who not only anchored the news, but as a skilled reporter who knew how to ask tough questions and find answers. He spent many years both in front of and behind the camera and continues to pass his knowledge on to those wanting to learn about true journalism.
Sam has spent his life working to tell the stories of others and advocate for those who may not have had a voice. His career has put him in the room with everyone from civil rights activist Rosa Parks to former President Bill Clinton. Long before he ever moved to the Heartland market he had established himself as a journalist who knew the value of a good story telling and the importance of giving others a voice.
Many still talk about a documentary it took a year for him to write and produce called “Spirit of The Fire.” Working virtually every weekend in the Cookson Hills of Western Oklahoma, Sam was allowed to take cameras into the Keetoowah society and document their way of life and ceremonies. He took viewers on a journey and gave them a glimpse of things never seen before by the outside world. Many of the interviews and conversations were translated from Cherokee so viewers could understand the processes and words. The historic piece is now housed in the Smithsonian and is still used today as a marker for the right way to share the story of a people and their journey. A second documentary, “The Little Giant from Little Dixie” on the life of former Speaker of the House, Carl Albert, is also in the Smithsonian collection.
Sam used his “Traveling 2 Country” series to introduce viewers to people like Charles Banks Wilson, an Oklahoma artist whose works hang in the Smithsonian, Washington’s Library of Congress, and the Oklahoma State Capitol.
In 1990 he was offered the dual role of anchor/producer of “Oklahoma Forum” a daily public affairs show on KTFO-TV. In 1992 management asked him to host “Open Line” a nightly one-hour show that involved Sam fielding live phone calls. He also wrote, produced, and anchored hour and half-hour specials. A few years later in 1994, KOTV-TV the CBS affiliate called, offering Sam the chance to do his call-in show there. Plus, they wanted him to have live music, to hire a band of his choice, and to expand the content. Sam added humorous news headlines, interviews and guest musicians. He hired the Sonny Gray Trio, all members of the Jazz Hall of Fame and well known across the country and in Tulsa. In its first year, the new show, “You’re On”, with Sam Jones, earned an Emmy nomination in the interview and discussion category.
In 1996 Sam broke the story of an ongoing shooting situation in which Tulsa Police Officer Dick Hobson was killed and officer Steve Downey was injured. His coverage received an Emmy nomination.
Sam has a way of telling the stories of the hidden and sometimes forgotten people of this state. From young elementary school aged kids competing in the Special Olympics to a young man scratching out a life on the streets and living in a dumpster.
Since 2006 Sam has hosted and helped produce a weekly public affairs show, “Green Country Perspectives” at RSU-TV where he also mentors young broadcast and writing students. He received two Emmys for programs “Not in My Family” on domestic abuse, and a half hour special on country music legend “Jana Jae”.
His integrity and the ability to look into the souls of the people in the stories he tells has always shone through his work. This also tells what kind of person he is. Honest, listening, proud, with his eyes always open to what and who is around him and the stories they have to share.