Byron St. Clair, a renowned television and radio engineer who was instrumental in bringing early TV to the mountainous rural West, has died. He had been diagnosed recently with a brain cancer, and died peacefully in Lakewood, Colorado aged 93. He leaves behind Julie, his wife of seventy one years, and a daughter, Susan Hansen of Arvada, Colorado.
St. Clair was President Emeritus of the National Translator Association, which he served as president for nineteen years. He made regular visits to Washington, D.C. where he worked tirelessly to preserve effective and universal free TV delivery. He pioneered the development of mountain-top repeaters that rebroadcast metropolitan signals on an automatically switched channel, devices known as TV translators. St. Clair was director of research and development for Adler Electronics, and a founder and president of EMCEE, manufacturer and installer of TV translators. Later he took his knowledge West to Colorado, and beginning in 1967 founded and was president of Television Technology Corp. in Arvada, later Larcan-TTC, Inc. During his three decades in running TTC the company became the best-known supplier of TV translators to the Inter-Mountain West. Gradually he moved from management to telecommunications consulting, and in that role he has strategized equipment design and channel selection, and submitted hundreds of engineering exhibits to the Federal Communications Commission.
In 1978 he became an informal advisor to the FCC Low Power Television Task Force, which was developing rules to enable TV translators to originate programs from any suitable source. The FCC adopted rules for low power television in 1982. Its growth into a broadcast service with thousands of licensed stations and its record of virtually no destructive interference are in major part the result of St. Clair’s technical expertise and vision.
St Clair obtained his B.S.E.E. (1945) and MA in Physics (1949) from Columbia University, and his Ph. D. in physics (1953) from Syracuse University. He was a member of the National High Definition Television Subcommittees, Systems Subcommittee Working Party to Field Test Task Force; a Board Member of the Advanced Television Broadcast Alliance; a long-time member and active participant in the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers (AFCCE); and 33 years as a Member of the Board of Directors for Denver PBS station KBDI-TV. Last year the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the world’s largest technical professional organization, recognized him with its Jules Cohen Award for Lifetime Achievement. In his long career, St. Clair accomplishes a rare synthesis of theoretical knowledge, executive skill as a manufacturer, and expositor and advocate for rural America.
In addition to his wife, daughter, and Son in Law Douglass West, St. Clair is survived by his brother, Dr. James O. St. Clair, Mull River, Canada and two grandsons, Michael and Peter Hansen. A memorial gathering is being planned in June.
The National Translator Association and the AFCCE are establishing a scholarship fund in his name, to foster education in the field of broadcast engineering.
Byron W. St. Clair
November 13, 1924 – May 20, 2018