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Safir, Nathan (1914–1996)

Ray Cano, Jr. Biography

Nathan Safir, trailblazer in Spanish-language broadcasting and general manager of KCOR-AM, the first full-time Spanish-language radio station in the United States, was born on July 14, 1914, in Hartford, Connecticut, to David and Bertha Safir. The Safirs moved to Monterrey, Mexico, on business when Nathan was only six months old. At the age of twelve Safir enrolled in the Texas Military Institute in San Antonio. By the age of sixteen he had enrolled at the University of Texas in Austin to pursue his lifelong dream of a career in journalism.

In the 1930s Safir graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and began working as a print journalist. Following the outbreak of World War II, he served three years in the United States Army in the infantry and was stationed in Germany. In 1942 he married and had two sons. When the war ended, Nathan Safir began producing a weekly Spanish-language broadcast on KTSA-AM in San Antonio. Then in 1946 he helped develop, with founder Raoul Cortez, the first full-time Spanish-language radio station in the United States at KCOR-AM. This was important to both Hispanic broadcasters and Hispanic audiences throughout Texas, because it gave them regular access to news, information, and entertainment of particular interest to them. Prior to this, Hispanics had been required to purchase blocks of time from mostly Anglo-owned stations in order to broadcast Spanish-language programs. KCOR-AM played a variety of Mexican and Mexican-American music and featured such popular deejays as Mateo Camargo, who provided a mix of music and talk. Safir also played a key role in developing the first full-time Spanish-language television station, KCOR-TV. Despite success with both the radio and television stations, Safir did encounter some difficulty convincing businesses and advertising agencies to advertise in a Spanish-language format.

Although there were others who pioneered Spanish-language broadcasting in the Southwest, Nathan Safir generally is recognized as one of the individuals most responsible for its development. He was named Chairman of the Texas Association of Broadcasters in 1975 and in 1982 received the Pioneer Broadcaster of the Year Award from the Texas Association of Broadcasters. On May 1, 1989, the National Association of Broadcasters acknowledged Safir’s important role by inducting him into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

In 1990 Safir retired as general manager of KCOR-AM after working for forty-four years in the business. On September 7, 1996, at the age of eighty-three, he died at home following complications from diabetes and was buried in Agudas Achim Memorial Gardens in San Antonio. Nathan Safir was survived by his wife, Lillian Safir; his two sons, David and Larry; his brother Alex Safir; and four grandchildren. Like his father, Larry Safir also took an interest in broadcasting and owned and managed KNVO-TV, the Univision television station in McAllen, Texas, before joining Entravision Communications to oversee its operations in South Texas.

Tony R. DeMars, “Buying Time to Start Spanish-Language Radio in San Antonio: Manuel Davila and the Beginning of Tejano Programming,” Journal of Radio Studies 12.1 (May 2005). Larry Safir Email Interview, October 18, 2006. San Antonio Express-News, September 9, 1996.

Categories:

  • Journalism
  • Radio and Television
  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans
  • Music
  • Business, Promotion, Broadcasting, and Technology

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Ray Cano, Jr., “Safir, Nathan,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 28, 2020, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/safir-nathan.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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