To Don Kent, the Meteorology Was What Mattered

March 3, 2010 · 4 comments

Guest Post by Bob Henson, UCAR

I consider myself forever lucky to have met Don Kent.  On a bright, mild afternoon last September, I drove to New Hampshire with AMS archivist Jinny Nathans and NCAR archivist Kate Legg to interview Don for the AMS-UCAR oral history project.  Knowing that I was at work on a history of television weathercasting (Weather on the Air, to be published this June by AMS), Jinny suggested the time was ripe to get the full interview that Don and his illustrious career so richly deserved.

Don Kent at his interview last September. He passed away yesterday at age 92.

We spent a delightful afternoon as Don recounted the saga of his involvement in weather and broadcasting.  It began during his 1920s boyhood, listening on the radio to Boston’s original weathercaster, E.B. Rideout.  There were obstacles along the way, including the ones Don hurdled as a volunteer weatherman for WMEX in the late 1930s, not long after high school.  As was the case until the 1950s, radio stations couldn’t even get teletype reports, much less Internet feeds, so Don had to traipse back and forth each day:

“I went to the weather bureau at Boston at 11 a.m., got the first map off the press at 11:30, and got up to the radio station for the 12:55 broadcast.”

Don told us about experiencing and covering the great hurricanes of 1938 and the 1950s.  He recounted his adventures and achievements during World War II and his serendipitous return to weathercasting years later.  His eyes brightened as he recalled his defense of on-air meteorology during the 1960s, when a WBZ news director told him either Kent or the isobars on his maps would have to go.  (In the end, of course, they both stayed.)

Interestingly, this legendary weathercaster and self-proclaimed “weather nut” told us that, of late, he’d been turning to the Internet rather than television for his atmospheric fix.  Who needed TV, he said, “when you’ve got your own computer showing the satellite and all the other stuff.”

What mattered most to Don, it seemed, wasn’t the medium but the meteorology. His legacy is safe among the thousands of Bostonians who counted on his dependable, no-nonsense reports, as well as the many weather communicators he mentored and inspired. If he’d had a youth serum handy, I have no doubt that Don would be podcasting, blogging, and YouTube-ing for decades to come.  Guest Post by Bob Henson, UCAR Communications Office.