Signing Off: KVLU Station Manager Byron Balentine reflects on career as retirement nears

When the word “legacy” was mentioned, KVLU Station Manager Byron Balentine had to pause. It was a word he had not thought of until that moment. As he stared off thinking about that word, he prepared to talk about it, because after 45 years of service with KVLU radio at Lamar University, Balentine will be signing off for the final time and leaving his legacy imprinted on the university at the end of 2022.

“It’s been so busy getting things ready that I haven’t had a lot of time to think about it up until late last week,” he said. “I had moved most of my personal items out of my office, and I looked at it and it just didn’t quite look the same. Then, I thought, this is getting real.”

In 1975, Balentine attended Lamar University and earned a degree in political science in 1979. Initially, he had pre-law aspirations and went on to attend Oklahoma State University. After spending a year at OSU, Balentine immediately realized where his passion was.

byron-balentine-2022.jpg“Most of the time that I was there, all I could think about was broadcasting,” he said. “I came back [to LU] and went to grad school in the College of Business. I did everything but finish my thesis for an MBA and, at the time, I was brought on as program director. Suddenly I realized that an important radio job takes everything you’ve got.”

He had a decision to make, and he chose to stick with KVLU and enter the world of professional radio.

For nearly 50 years, Balentine has been a part of the KVLU team. Starting out in a part-time role, he continued to learn as much as he could and worked his way up through a number of positions.

“They always had something for me,” he said. “By 1981, I was put on regular staff and had regular shows since then. I then went from staff announcer to music director to operations director and then to program director in 1985.”

It wasn’t just his commitment to working the odd radio hours and passion for the industry that brought him into the fold, though, it was also his knowledge in the music that was played and featured from the station.

“I knew the music,” he said. “I had been a part of jazz bands in high school and college, and I played trumpet since third grade. I was interested in making music and was schooled a bit in jazz, so it came naturally to me to play jazz.”

It was because of his knowledge in jazz music that opened more doors for him within KVLU, eventually becoming music director for the station. This allowed him to expand his knowledge further and to become more involved with the Beaumont jazz community.

“There used to be a jazz society in Beaumont and so it was always KVLU that hosted these things,” he said. “So, if there was a jazz star in town, they would come and spend a half hour with me on the radio. I got a chance to drive Freddy Hubbard and other jazz artists to the theater and other venues.”


Over the years, Balentine’s knowledge and confidence began to grow, leading to increased roles and opportunities despite the initial doubt he had at first.

“There was a certain imposter syndrome early on,” he said. “There have always been a lot of good people here. I thought ‘I’ll never be as good as these people.’ There was a certain amount of concern at first that I could ever be a part of the club.”

20 years after being given the privilege of serving as the program director for KVLU, Balentine was given the opportunity to serve in a position that he had never expected: station manager.

“Looking back on it, I never could have predicted that I would be sitting here at this point,” he said. “I wish to give credit to the previous manager George Beverley who saw potential in me and taught me how to manage a radio station. Thanks to him, I was prepared to lead and he was always a telephone call away when I needed advice. I hope to be that person to the next manager.”

For the next 17 years, Balentine took control of KVLU. During his time, there were several challenges that he and his team faced. From hurricanes to a worldwide pandemic, the obstacles were plentiful. However, as one of his mentors had previously told him, Balentine knew the only solution to any problem.

“You’ve got to make that broadcast happen,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what else goes on or what gets in the way. You’ve just got to make that broadcast happen.”

This was the mindset and work ethic of Balentine for his entire broadcasting career. In fact, during Hurricane Rita, Balentine and KVLU broadcast for a week from his own kitchen. In a time where technology wasn’t as advanced as today, the KVLU team made the broadcast happen in one of the worst hurricanes ever recorded.

This achievement gained the attention of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the station wasgiven an award for creative use of their capabilities.

When it came to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the previous innovations that had to be made due to the hurricanes prepared them for the unknown.

“Long before COVID-19, we figured out we actually didn’t need studios up here in order to do what we needed to do,” he said. “That informed us pretty well during COVID-19.”

As Balentine’s time with KVLU nears its end, despite the challenges faced, he looked back on some of his favorite memories made over the years from working alongside the charismatic Gordon Baxter to educating LU students about radio and broadcasting.


He also looked back on his contributions to the station and the legacy he hopes to leave behind.

When asked about his legacy, he had to take a moment. After looking back on his career and all the memories he had made, Balentine spoke on the important word noting that he hopes to leave behind a legacy of reflecting the genuine community of Southeast Texas. 

“That’s a big question,” he said. “I hope a number of students that have gone through my class, and people who have gone through the station, have caught the attention that I have for this station and for radio in general. There are personalities that only people can be, and I think that you need to grasp that and use it as a method of getting a voice out there. Not necessarily your own but representing a reflection of the community.”

The retiring station manager added,“I think there will be remnants of me for some years to come. To be genuine you have to be everything you are and use everything you know. I have nothing but great love for the station and I hope that it continues to prosper.”