Jim Thompson prepares for retirement after 50-year broadcasting careerWritten by Jim Thompson
Spearfish, SD – A generation of radio came to an end this week as Jim Thompson wrapped us his final radio show on May 29 with special guest Kay Jorgenson. The legacy started when Thompson’s uncle Don first heard what would become one of the most well-known voices across the state and region.
As a youngster, Thompson, now president of Creative Broadcast Services, Inc. (CBSI), was more interested in baseball than broadcasting, but he would eventually find himself behind the mic doing both and much more. Today, the 50-year air time veteran gets ready to retire.
Born in Bowman, N.D. and raised on ranches in eastern Oregon, Thompson graduated from Sturgis Brown High School in Sturgis, S.D. He served in the United States Army during the Korean War, first as a Military Police Officer in 1969 and then at Armed Forces Korea Network on AFKN TV and Radio.
Following an honorable discharge from the armed services in 1970, he went on to develop programming, broadcast and manage stations in South Dakota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Minnesota and California, along the way discovering a love for yet another sport – rodeo. His career encompassed announcing every major finals rodeo including the National Finals, World Finals, Indian Finals, Senior Pro Finals, College Finals, National Circuit Finals and High School Finals, as well as numerous state finals and regional circuit finals.
Thompson’s political career brought him to the state capitol as a state senator for District Five in Watertown, S.D.. His populist style made him a favorite with the public but found him constricted in conservative South Dakota politics.
As a result, he resigned from the Senate in the middle of a second term and moved CBSI to the Black Hills. Yet today, policy makers and potential candidates turn to him for input – a behind-the-scenes level of influence where he feels he’s most effective.
Thompson, along with Jorgensen of Spearfish, S.D., founded CBSI. in 1996.
Developing and broadcasting 4,200 consecutive shows on stations in South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and Nebraska has created a voice recognition matched by very few along with a multi-generational listening audience.
Thompson coined the phrase, “color radio” – a description of his technique and talent that oftentimes transports listeners into a particularly moving or compelling show segment.
Now a popular guest speaker around the region, Thompson’s distinctive voice and style has helped define, challenge and celebrate social norms, helped raise money for countless benefits and fundraisers and has introduced dozens of new voices to broadcasting while oftentimes sharing the mic with governors, musicians, and actors. But he credits the legion of loyal listeners, radio stations, print and television media, as among those relationships he treasures most.
During the month of May, Thompson brought back guests, fill-in hosts and others who were a part of the popular Live! with Jim Thompson Show, along with other programming developed by CBSI, for a final salute to a colorful and impressive run in radio.
He’s been recognized by the Casey Tibbs Rodeo Center Hall of Fame in Ft. Pierre, the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame in Sioux Falls and the Black Hills Stock Show Hall of Fame in Rapid City. In addition he was selected by Justin Boots as their PRCA Rodeo Committee Man of the Year in 2008 for his work over two decades with the Deke Latham Pro Rodeo in Kaycee, raising over $13,000 in college scholarships.
Though the last show of the “Country Café of the Airwaves” broadcasted on May 29, Thompson won’t disappear completely from the airwaves. His popular syndicated shows, “On The Road Again” and “The Good Stuff” will continue to air across six states.
If he could sum up his experience, it would probably be with a line Thompson developed in 1976 as a commercial series for DeSmet Farm Mutual Insurance of South Dakota – still being aired almost 40 years later .
As Thompson would say, “It’s another great memory.”