Keith Blackledge: Lessons from a Community

Chuck Salestrom, former bass player for the Peter, Chuck, and Job trio, will present the program “Keith Blackledge:  Lessons from a Community.”  Salestrom’s presentation, filled with stories, a video interview and photography, will be on Sunday, April 14 at 2:00 p.m. at the Lexington Public Library.  This program is sponsored by Humanities Nebraska, the Lexington Library Foundation, and the Friends of the Lexington Public Library.

Below is an abbreviated obituary, it states his accomplishments far better than we could do.

Keith Blackledge, 82, former editor of the North Platte Telegraph who was actively involved in many community and state projects, died July 5, 2010, in North Platte.
He was born Aug. 29, 1926, in Sheridan, Wyo., to Victor Raymond Blackledge and Isla Falkenstien Blackledge. He grew up in Scottsbluff where his father was advertising and business manager of the Scottsbluff Star-Herald. The family moved to Los Angeles where his father was stationed with the Army during World War II and Keith graduated from high school there.

Blackledge attended Oregon State College in the Army Specialized Training Reserve Program, then Infantry Basic Training in Texas. He was stationed in the Philippines for a year immediately after the war.

He attended Scottsbluff Junior College one semester, then the University of Missouri School of Journalism where he graduated in 1950. He received an Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps Commission at Missouri and was called to active duty during the Korean conflict, spending 21 months as a training squadron adjutant at Lowry Air Force Base , Colorado.

Blackledge began his newspaper career at the Russell Daily News in Russell, Kan., then for seven years worked at the North Platte Telegraph-Bulletin as sports editor, city editor and then managing editor. He left in 1959 for the Miami (Fla.) Herald where he was Ft. Lauderdale bureau chief and then an assistant city editor. He was a journalism instructor from 1961-64 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He spent three years at the Dayton Ohio Journal Herald as an editorial writer, city editor and assistant managing editor.

Blackledge returned to North Platte in 1967 as executive editor of the North Platte Telegraph and was later named vice-president and director of public affairs. While he was editor, the newspaper was a frequent winner of Nebraska Press Association and Associated Press awards and his editorials won the Inland Daily Press Association William Allen White award three times.

He retired in 1992 and continued to write a weekly column, “Your Town and Mine” and occasional other articles for the Telegraph until his death. His hobby was researching and writing local history. He is the author of “A Short History of North Platte and the Election of 1951” published in 2005 by the Lincoln County Historical Society. A book of his letters written during and just after World War II was published in 2008 under the title, “Letters Home.”

His editorials and personal support played a significant role in the successful effort to merge two small hospitals into the Great Plains Regional Medical Center in 1975.
Blackledge was instrumental in launching the Mid-Nebraska Community Foundation in 1978 and was Foundation president from 1983-85. As president of the Chamber of Commerce he helped establish the Clean City Committee that became Keep North Platte Beautiful.

He also initiated the formation of a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in North Platte in 1998 and served three years as its first president. He spent two months in Americus, Georgia in 2003 working as a volunteer in the headquarters office of Habitat for Humanity International.

He was a founding member and two-term chairman of the Nebraska Humanities Council and a member of the initial board of the National Federation of State Humanities Councils. He also served as chairman of the Nebraska State Colleges Board of Trustees, Nebraska Public Radio Foundation, Nebraska Educational Telecommunications Commission and Nebraska State Historical Society. He was co-chairman of a committee that supported a constitutional amendment allowing Nebraska to offer tax incentives for preservation of historic buildings. He became the first chairman of North Platte’s Historic Preservation Commission. He was also instrumental in major fund drives to build the Lincoln County Historical Society museum and expand its facilities.

Blackledge has received numerous awards, including the Sower Award from the Nebraska Humanities Council, the Ike Friedman Community Leadership Award from the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben and the Nebraska Preservation Award from the Nebraska State Historical Society. He was named to the Nebraska Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2005.
He received a Distinguished Service Award from Chadron State College and gave the commencement address at the college in 2007. He had received the University of Nebraska Alumni Achievement award and the UNL College of Journalism Alumni Award.

Other awards included the Sertoma Service to Mankind, Lincoln County Convention and Visitors Bureau Friend of Tourism, Chamber of Commerce Businessman of the Year, Ak-Sar Ben Service to Agriculture and Mid-Nebraska Community Foundation Above and Beyond. He received the Joe diNatale Award from the North Platte Jaycees in 1994 and was named a Paul Harris Fellow of Rotary International in 2002. He was named to the North Platte Area Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame in 2001.

He also received the “Board Salute” presented by First National Bank and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lincoln County Historical Society, both in 2008. The city of North Platte proclaimed May 10, 2010, as “Keith Blackledge Day.”


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