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Shelby Thomas Harbison

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Shelby Thomas Harbison Obituary
Shelby Thomas Harbison 1924 - 2019
Springfield , IL—Shelby Thomas Harbison, 94, passed away Saturday, January 5, 2019 at Concordia Village in Springfield, IL. He was born August 19, 1924, in Lexington Kentucky, the son of Shelby and Ruth Harbison. He married Marilyn Otto in 1950 and she preceded him in death in 2009. Shelby is survived by his three children: daughter, Becky Schultz (Bruce) and sons, Shelby T. and Peter C. (Judy); five grandchildren: Bubba (Alyssa) Schultz and Angela, Jill, Lauren and Bennett Harbison; two great-grandchildren: Emilia and Isabella Schultz; and three nephews: Leonard, Bruce and Sam Edwards.
Shelby was a graduate of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. As a commissioned officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II, Shelby served on a ship that was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for action at Okinawa. During the war he met his lifetime best friend, Oliver O.J. Keller.
Shelby began a long career in radio as a sports announcer and salesman for WTAX 1240, starting in 1948 and became the station's general manager in 1964. He founded Sangamon Broadcasting in 1970, purchasing WTAX, WDBR FM 103.7 and the Capitol Information Bureau in Springfield, adding two Danville, Illinois stations—WDAN and WDNL—in 1977. Following the sale of WTAX and WDBR to Sentry Broadcasting in 1979, he remained as general manager to the Springfield stations and continued as chairman of the board and principal stockholder of WDAN and WDAL. In 1982, Shelby formed Solomon Valley Broadcasting with two other broadcasters and purchased KVSV AM and FM in Beloit, Kansas. In 1985, he assumed management responsibility for Sentry Broadcasting-owned stations in Springfield, Rockford, and Sioux City, Iowa. Upon the sale in 1986 of WTAX and WDBR to Sage Broadcasting Inc., he was placed in charge of stations in Stevens Point and Eau Clair, Wisconsin, as well as the Springfield broadcast properties. In 1987, Shelby sold the Danville stations and retired from day-to-day broadcast management. In 1988, he joined with two associates to purchase WSCJ AM and FM in Morris, Illinois. With the sale of those two stations in 1990, Shelby ended a 42-year career in radio.
Shelby was well-known in Springfield for his service to many community organizations. He was elected to two terms on the Springfield Board of Education, serving as president one year. He was a past president and long-time member of the Illinois Broadcasters Association (no stretch there) and a past president of the American Business Club. He served as president of the Springfield YMCA for two years, as chairman of the Springfield Economic Development Council, and as a board member for the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, Gateway Foundation, Boys Club of Springfield, Sangamon–Menard Council on Alcoholism and Drugs, Springfield Human Relations Commission, World Affairs Council of Central Illinois, and the Vestry of Christ Episcopal Church. Following his retirement, Shelby served for three years as chairman of the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE).
Shelby was honored with numerous awards throughout his career, including the Illinois State Medical Society award for outstanding radio medical discussion program, the Springfield Jaycees' Boss of the Year award, and the Illinois National Guard's Pro Patria Award. He was inducted into the Springfield Sports Hall of Fame in 1992 as a Friend of Sports, and the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. In 1997 he received the Illinois Broadcasters Association Vincent T. Wasilewski Award for a lifetime of excellence in broadcasting. He lent his masterful skills as a master of ceremonies to many local events, including the Beaux Arts Ball, the Golden Laurel Awards, and the Springfield Sports Hall of Fame.
In recognition of his devotion to the well-being and betterment of the community, Shelby was named the 2005 recipient of the Copley First Citizen Award. Addressing the crowd at his induction, Shelby declared to a surprised audience, "This is going to look good in my obituary."
In retirement, Shelby spent many wonderful years involved in activities at the YMCA that included swimming, singing in the shower, shaking down Chicago politicians for contributions to the Strong Kids Campaign, and attempting to out-BS Larry Wedding and the guys.
Cremation will be accorded by Butler Cremation Tribute Center prior to ceremonies.
Memorial Gathering: Family will receive friends from 4:00 until 7:00 p.m. on Friday, January 11, 2019 at Kirlin-Egan & Butler Funeral Home, 900 S. 6th St., Springfield.
Graveside Ceremony: 12:00 p.m. on Monday, January 14, 2019 at Camp Butler National Cemetery with military honors provided by the Interveterans Burial Detail of Sangamon County and the Department of Defense.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Animal Protective League, 1001 Taintor Rd., Springfield, IL 62702 or Friends of Sangamon County Animal Control, PO Box 9742, Springfield, IL 62791.
Please visit butlerfuneralhomes.com to offer your condolences.
Published in Print in The State Journal-Register from Jan. 9 to Jan. 10, 2019
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