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Dorothy Stimson Bullitt, 97; Seattle Broadcasting Pioneer

June 29, 1989|From Times Wire Services

SEATTLE — Dorothy Stimson Bullitt, grande dame of Pacific Northwest television, whose pioneer broadcasting investments helped make her one of the richest women in America, died Tuesday of heart failure at her home here.

The founder of the KING Broadcasting Co. was 97.

Mrs. Bullitt, heir to a real estate fortune, was a leading figure in Seattle's business and cultural life for more than 50 years.

Widowed in 1932, she reared three children alone and took over the Bullitt family business.

In 1947, she founded King Broadcasting, purchased a local AM and FM radio station, KEVR, and changed the call letters to KING, after King County.

Her company today is one of the largest privately held communications firms in the West. The company includes television and radio stations in Spokane, Wash.; Portland, Ore.; San Francisco; Honolulu, and Boise and Twin Falls, Ida., a video cable company and other related enterprises.

Mrs. Bullitt ran the enterprise with fierce independence, vowing never to sell air time to religious organizations. That ban remains in place at KING Television, which she purchased for $375,000 from a Merrill Lynch employee who had built Channel 5 himself and put it on the air on Thanksgiving Day, 1948.

The Federal Communications Commission placed a temporary ban on the establishment of new stations while resolving problems with transmission, giving KING a five-year monopoly as the only television station west of the Mississippi and north of San Francisco. It showed programming from all three networks.

Mrs. Bullitt retired as company president in 1962 but remained honorary chairman of the board.

She served on the boards of the Seattle Art Museum, the University of Washington, Children's Hospital, Pacific University, the Seattle Public Library and the Seattle Symphony.

She also was active in the Democratic Party, helping to nominate Franklin D. Roosevelt for the presidency in 1932.

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