Only a few friends remember my adopting Clifford and David from the Lena Pope Home for boys in Fort Worth, Texas, almost four decades ago. It was an unusual adoption, the judge proclaiming it as the first single parent adoption of two boys from a Texas orphanage.
I was still in my thirties, had experienced some orphanage life myself before graduating from high school opened the door to a life most would never experience. The broadcast industry had heaped awards and praise at my doorstep and I counted dozen�s of celebrities as friends.
I leased the personal home of California Lt. Governor, Edwin Rieneke and his wife Jean, on the valley side of Coldwater Canyon, bought myself a Mercedes and finally stepped into my California dream.
On one of my trips to visit a client in Texas, I was introduced to Leland Hacker, head of the orphanage. In giving me a tour of the institution, I began to hear the sad story of the boys who called that barn size building home. Statistic�s indicated more than half of the young men would either be incarcerated or dead before they reached manhood. Several were not adoptable for a variety of reasons.
He paused to show me two young lads sitting side by side on a single bunk bed. They were poorly clothed, holes in the soles of their tennis shoes. I�ll never forget those faces of total despair. Mr. Hacker said both boys would probably be among those who would not live past their 21st birthday. As preteens they were no longer babies and not prime candidates for adoption.
A few weeks later, one of my dearest friends, Bill Gavin, visited my home in California. A man much wiser than I and several years my senior, Bill and I soon began to discuss the plight of those who were not as fortunate as we were. Little did either of us realize just how much that one conversation would affect my life. With Bill�s urging, �It will be the most important thing you will probably do in your lifetime�, I began the process of adopting David Carter and Clifford Champagne.
Four decades ago single parent adoption wasn�t the norm, if it was allowed at all, was only after an exhaustive investigation. So many of my friends, Jack Thayer, Ken Palmer, Wally Schwartz, Al Bennett and Neil Bogart, each called to say they had vouched for my character and expressed amazement and their best wishes for my job ahead as a single parent.
A few months later, David Carter Rook and Clifford Champagne Rook arrived to see their new home for the first time. They could hardly believe having their own large bedrooms and private bath�s in a spacious home of their own. They explored the house, including the large swimming pool and orange grove in the rear section of the walled estate. David soon brought home a large golden Labrador retriever he�d name �Sundance�.
What a wonderful time for me too, introducing my sons to a world they had only dreamed off. Shortly after their arrival, one of the nations top disc jockey�s, Humble Harve, came by to visit me. Upon his departure, Clifford commented �he�s just like us�. He�d say that many times in meeting my various celebrity friends.
It was so much fun for me to have David and Clifford as my travel companions on my various trips east. New York, Miami, Denver and the never forgotten mansions of Newport, Rhode Island, where Clifford asked, �Do they really live in there?�
At home we regularly hung out at Paradise Cove, near Zuma beach. It was a time of golden tans and long hair over the shoulders for the three of us.
Raising David wasn�t difficult, a broken leg from playing football and a scrap or two, he was the typical Southern California boy. For his 16th birthday I gave him his first automobile�a VW bug. He cherished it, washing and shining it almost daily. I loved surprising and spoiling both boys.
David, Clifford, John & Della Rook
My stepmother, Della, who had raised me, adored the boys and she became �granny� to them, the first �mother� they ever had. Our home was full of love and a time I�ll cherish for the rest of my life. It was David who upon finding her lifeless body in bed one morning, tried to bring her back to life with mouth to mouth resuscitation. He joined me in traveling east to Ohio, where she was laid to rest next to her mother & father. Clifford was unable to make the trip, Granny�s passing would be more than he could accept.
Watching David graduate from Granada Hills high school, leave the nest and marry Rhonda was a great thrill for me. Being a single parent was no problem as I involved David and Clifford in every part of my life...radio, music, travel...they were there.
Best Man Clifford at David & Rhonda's wedding
Matthew and dad, David Rook
David, Rhonda, Matthew & Clifford
David & Rhonda's marriage gave me grandson Matthew.
Grandpa John & Matthew
Then in what seemed almost overnight, Matthew was a handsome young man who became a Georgia police officer.
My sister Dottie and I experienced a
similar pain when her son Roy's life was ended in an automobile accident.
And so it would be with David, who died in a trucking accident before
reaching his 50th year. Our memories of David give us much to be
thankful for and though the first years of his life as an orphan robbed him of the love of family, it was
not missing from the day he became a Rook.
While Clifford was ill almost constantly, we were fortunate having the income to pay for doctors at California�s top hospitals, including the Sansom Clinic in Santa Barbara and UCLA medical facilities. I spared no expense in searching for a solution.
Clifford loved reading and provided intelligent conversation on almost any subject. While he was unable to complete his high school education, he did attend a special school for those deemed disabled, at Pierce College in the San Fernando Valley. A handsome lad, he and his girl friend Robbie made a great couple. But his illness would often bring on days when he was unable to even leave his bedroom.
Finally doctors believed Clifford�s illness was hereditary. Since records of Clifford�s parents were sealed by law, it would take another three years before a private investigator I hired to aid our search, gave us a clue. Clifford�s natural father, John Champagne, had died in a veteran�s hospital. The veteran�s administration refused our request for information. Clifford�s adoption made him no longer the son of record for John Champagne and I not being a relative, was not entitled to any details, or even that John Champagne had even existed.
Even more time would pass before a Democratic senator from Colorado, Floyd Haskell, and a Republican California governor named Ronald Reagan petitioned the federal government to release any information concerning John Champagne. Clifford�s doctors signed a statement promising the records of his father would only be used by them in treating Clifford. We personally were not to have access to any details.
Fortunately, Senator Haskell didn�t sign any such pledge and did give us the long sought information about Clifford�s natural father.
John Champagne had been in the military and one of the hundreds at the Bikini Atoll islands in the Pacific when our government tested the effects of the atomic bomb. He finished his tour of duty, and before being institutionalized for his remaining years, he fathered at least three children. He died at a veteran�s hospital in Kansas.
While we now had the information we had long sought, doctors could only treat Clifford with a variety of prescription drugs to help him cope with life. He was classified totally disabled. If he were to have any chance of improving, it was suggested we move from the unhealthful air of southern California to a cleaner environment.
I personally loved southern California, but began looking for a new home in a clean air location. My friends, Bill Gavin and Neil Bogart urged me on, both in separate conversations reminding me I�d never get rich working for someone else.
Another one of my closest friends, Biggie Nevins, with more than thirty years at Cox Broadcasting, found his employment suddenly terminated, leaving him with just a few thousand dollars to his name. Within an hour of telling me of what life had handed him, he dropped dead of a heart attack, brought on by the shock of unemployment. That�s all it took for me to realize my own retirement and the lifetime care of a totally disabled son was something I needed to advance in priority, or I too could suffer the same consequences.
Several offers of top management positions were offered in major markets, but that was not the environment needed for Clifford�s health and If I would ever become my own boss, it was now. But our government had made it much tougher to apply for broadcast ownership. Caucasians were severely penalized in comparative hearings, with minorities and especially female minorities, given preferential treatment over white male applicants for broadcast ownership.
With few minority residents, the inland Pacific Northwest was a prime candidate for my entering the ranks as a broadcast owner. I immediately filed applications for new FM�s at Pasco, Washington, Hayden and Coeur d�Alene, Idaho and purchased an interest in a new FM at Casper, Wyoming.
I finally purchased that little horse ranch I�d always wanted in what would become �my little sliver of paradise�. Good friend of Los Angeles radio days, Tom Hogan, came to visit, flew over and snapped a photo.
Clifford�s illness rendered him unable to drive one of our two automobiles to our new home south of Coeur d�Alene. I drove one with our four dogs and a black friend of Clifford�s, DeWayne, drove the second car on the thousand mile trek north. We arrived at our new ranch home on July 4th, 1983 and I began my new role as owner of KCDA-FM.
Licensees of radio stations were required �to seek out issues of importance to the community and make them known�. During the years I owned KCDA, we were an important voice exposing corruption in Coeur d�Alene and had a major part in the election of several candidates for public office, in direct opposition to the town�s newspaper and its publisher.
Our little fm radio station with a country music format became top rated in north Idaho and attracted a sizable audience in Spokane also.
For more than a dozen years we lived comfortably off the revenue of our radio station. KCDA also found a job for Clifford, where he was office manager. A radio station I had purchased for $200,000 grew in value to where I began receiving offers in excess of a million dollars. Each time I explained the station wasn�t for sale and was to be the retirement vehicle for me and my son.
Soon, four horses, Babe, Missy, Topper and Lilly, joined our dogs, Sundance, Lady, Dudley, Luv, Candy and Sport, not to mention felines Boots, Greta, Sassy and Ester as our little horse ranch became the home we had always wished for.
John & Missy
Clifford & Babe
I was so pleased when Clifford announced he had found a lady to be his wife. They together asked that my grandmother�s wedding ring also be theirs.
But after a dozen years, our lives would take a sour turn.
The day of the small broadcast owner was over as the Gingrich led republican congress of the mid 90�s pushed through the deregulation of broadcasting unleashing a feeding frenzy of large companies that would be impossible for us to survive. We fought off the challenge of companies owned by multi millionaires, even billionaires. We were threatened, told we had no choice but to sell out, but still declined, instead taking steps to add three more fm�s to our Spokane package.
I should have recognized Clear Channel & Citadel would take any action to limit their competition. Combining their dirty tricks and sharing the expense of litigation, they forced me out of business, with the help of the United States Department of Justice.
I made my case to the Department of Justice, was advised an antitrust action was warranted and to proceed, the DOJ would be also taking action on my behalf. Two years later, this same DOJ advised me the antitrust chief at the agency, Michael Powell, decided against prosecuting the defendants. After promising to break up their Spokane monopoly, they were instead given a slap on the wrist and excused for their antitrust actions.
My individual war chest was paltry compared to the litigated expense being shared by public companies, Clear Channel & Citadel.
The threats, �we�ll ruin you if you go to the DOJ�, rang true. I was but a pebble on the road of total domination of the public�s airwaves by a wealthy few.
It was not one of the best periods in my life, having worked to provide myself with a good retirement and my sons a business to take over, I was broke from legal expense and suffered a heart attack.
Many months would pass before I gathered the strength and desire to continue with life.
In time congress and the FCC would learn just how devastating deregulation was, as they began hearings to "turn back" the monopolies they bred. Senator Ernest Hollings heard my story and he would ignite the spark that began to right the wrong of a run-a-way deregulation.
The Department of Justice would actually make the trip from the nations capitol all the way out to Idaho to hear firsthand of my story.
Of course it was too late to reverse what had happened to me, but I was very pleased as I recalled the words of my late dear friend Bill Gavin who said, "in time the truth always wins out".
In the years since, following heart surgery and the installation of a pacemaker/defibrillator, I've found new interest consulting talk radio and publishing information on this website.
That little horse ranch that I bought 25 years ago is indeed "My little sliver of paradise".
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Web site � 2006 John H. Rook
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site � 2004 John H. Rook
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