Texas Hero forecasts big cowboy weekend
By Mary Allyce Special to the Courier
Pictured: Nonagenarien Jud Ashmore is still going strong.
"I don't like the term 'retired'," said 90-year-old Jud Ashmore as he climbed on and off ladders and plucked photos and awards from high reaches of his memorabilia-filled workshop - just around the corner from a huge pile of wood he cut earlier.
Evidence of his decades as a TV-radio personality line the walls alongside photos of him on annual trips to the Grand Canyon on his birthday. "I walked it every year," he said, "to remind myself how small we really are." Any one aspect of his life could qualify Ashmore as the Texas Hero he will become on Saturday, July 25, as the Frontier Times Museum kicks off the weekend of the National Day of The American Cowboy.
Born Jehu D. Ashmore in 1924 in Oakford, Illinois, he abbreviated the family name to "Jud" and lived what he calls, "A wonderful childhood," despite his mother's death when he was 15. Her illness and his father's need to work long hours caused Jud to miss a lot of school and have some discipline problems.
When his mother died, Ashmore dropped out and took up the life of a hobo, traveling to the Pacific, hitchhiking briefly, then hopping on trains where he was arrested twice for vagrancy until he said, "I figured out if I said I was a migratory worker they couldn't arrest me."
His wanderlust satisfied for the time being, Ashmore finished school in a tough science and math program, designed and supervised by the principal. It was the beginning of a life filled with continuing education, including a degree in general science in 1949 from Bradley University. World War II intervened first and Ashmore was drafted, spending two and a half years in the United States Navy as a signalman on landing craft.
In 1945, he and "several million others" came out of the military to a soft job market and he enlisted in the 2-year-old US Air Force OCS, which sent him to meteorology school at the University of Utah, setting the tone for much of his adult life. Ashmore figures he has "over 100 hours" of education beyond his degree.
He spent 13 years in SAC in Arizona as the Staff Weather Officer, then on to SAC Headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska where the underground command center houses the infamous "red phone." After 21 years in the AF, Ashmore "separated" - not "retired" - on a Saturday morning and by Monday, he was on the air as a weathercaster for KSAT-12 in San Antonio.
The list of media outlets, both TV and radio, for which he broadcast weather is long and stretches from the Midwest to the West Coast - KSAT-12, KITE, WOAI, KENS-5, KRNH, WFVN TV and radio in Indianapolis, KTIX in San Francisco. Despite some career bumps, Ashmore clearly loved his profession, spanning an era from glass weather screens, overhead projectors and flashlight pointers to the computer age.
"Meteorologists aren't slaves to a script. You can ad lib," he said, referencing phrases like his "Give somebody a hug - it'll make you feel good," line that almost got him fired but became his signature. When one station tried to muzzle him, he responded with typical feistiness, saying, "I don't get paid to keep my mouth shut." Audiences agreed by giving him a huge 20 percent share in ratings at one point.
Married to Peggy of Shoe Biz since the early 70s, Ashmore was still doing reports for KRNH Ranch Radio from the road when he got word from the station the store had burned down while the couple was in Alaska. He, Peggy and her daughter, Robin Konz, rebuilt the store and moved past the disaster with true Texas Hero tenacity and spirit.
Ashmore's induction into the Texas Heroes Hall of Honor, along with Bud Fitzpatrick and Todd Whitewood, takes place at 7 pm, Friday, July 25, on the grounds of the Frontier Times Museum, 510 13th Street. This kickoff to the National Day of the American Cowboy weekend includes dinner under the stars by barbecue master Rick Anderson and music by the versatile Drugstore Cowboys - an ideal backdrop to meet, greet and learn more about the amazing lives of the 2014 Texas Heroes.
For more information on the entire weekend, call the Frontier Times Museum at 830-796-3864 or visit www.frontiertimesmuseum.org