May 16, 1922 - Nov. 18, 2012
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Robert C. Vinson of West Los Angeles died Nov. 18, at Cedar Sanai Hospital of age-related causes at the age of 90. He was born in Colville, Washington, on May 16, 1922, the second son of Dr. and Mrs. O. F. Vinson.
Robert showed a talent for music at a young age, playing the piano, serving as an accompanist for vocal groups, and as an instrumentalist in bands. He was an honor student, graduating from high school in 1939. He entered the University of Washington where he studied music and drama and earned a "Bachelor of Arts and Music" degree in 1943.
When the United States became engaged in World War II, Robert enlisted in the Army Reserve Corps. Immediately after graduation from the University of Washington, he entered active duty. After training at Camp Wolters, Texas, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and Camp Cooke, California, Vinson was assigned to the 97th Infantry Division and combat in the European theater
As a unit of General George Patton's Third Army, the Division swept through Belgium, crossed the Rhine River, and drove through the German heartland to Czechoslovakia. T/5 Vinson was awarded the Bronze Star and Combat Infantryman Badge.
Following V-E Day in 1945, the 97th was transported to the Pacific Theater and Vinson served with the occupation forces in Japan until his discharge in early 1946.
Seeking a career in broadcasting, he relocated to Hollywood, California, to study at the NBC University of California--Los Angeles Radio Institute. There he began writing for the free lance radio market. He acquired writing credits in such programs as "Smile Time" with Steve Allen, "Skippy Hollywood Theater", the "Elgin Hour of Stars", Father Peyton's "Family Theater", and the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS). One of his scripts for AFRS was the top award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews on the subject of "Brotherhood" in 1947. This was presented to him by the first Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal in a Washington D.C. ceremony.
Television was in its infancy in the 1950's and Vinson was selected to organize and head the Armed Forces Television Service. He developed a close liaison with the commercial television industry and was directly responsible for obtaining millions of dollars for entertainment, news and sports for telecast at remote overseas locations wherever American troops were stationed. He was a long-time member of the Masquers Club in Hollywood.
Known as "Mr. Television" to his coworkers, Vinson traveled all over the world making official visits to AFTV stations . . . to South Korea to South Viet Nam where again he found himself in combat areas, to Europe, Middle East, Greenland, on islands in the Pacific and ships at sea. Through the 30 years he served as Chief of Television, he encouraged many young men and women to continue their military occupations as broadcasters or to enter civilian careers.
At his retirement in 1982, Vinson was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal which was presented by Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.
Robert comes from pioneer stock with his maternal great grandfather, the Rev. Christopher Misner, immigrating to the Oregon Territory in 1860 near what is now Sprague, Washington; and his paternal grandfather, Augustus Melcher, arriving in the same area in 1877.
Robert leaves no immediate family members. He leaves a substantial estate to establish scholarship endowments and philanthropic gifts. His burial, with military honors, will take place on Dec. 7, at 11 a.m., at the Vacaville-Elmira Cemetery in Vacaville, California. Friends and acquaintances are invited to the ceremony and a reception to follow at the Nut Tree.
Published in The Reporter on Nov. 27, 2012