Lee Kopp

Radio Man

Lee Kopp (1925-2010, born LeRoy M. Kopp, Jr.) was a radio man. He spent his entire life with a radio nearby. Radio was in his blood.

Lee was born in Kansas in 1925, but his family moved to Los Angeles when he was barely a year old. A radio was an early part of the furniture in the home. As he was growing up in the 1930s, his father, who was the pastor at the Green Meadows Foursquare Gospel Church, had started a half-hour daily radio broadcast called “Radio Revival” on KGER. His dad’s radio programming continued into the 50s with a weekly segment on KRKD’s “The Voice of Healing Radio Program.”

During World War II, Lee enlisted in the U.S. Navy and earned his first radio license and served as a radio operator stationed in San Diego. Following the war, he immediately landed a job at KQW radio in San Jose, which has claims to be the pioneer broadcasting radio station in the world.

Lee Kopp at KQW (Circa 1940s)

During this time, Lee met Charlotte Anderson (King), who would become his wife of 60 years. She was the choir and music director at Four Square Church and attended services at First Baptist Church just about a block from the KQW studios.

She would visit the station on Sundays to play piano and sing Christian songs for live broadcast. The two married in September of 1947. Lee worked at KQW until CBS bought the station, changed the call letters to KCBS, and moved the operation to San Francisco.

Lee Kopp and Charlotte Anderson-Kopp (1947 Photo)
Lee Kopp and Charlotte Anderson-Kopp (1947 Photo)

During 1951 and early ’52 Lee took a position at KIBE in Palo Alto as an announcer, producer and engineer. The station operated on 1220 kHz. at 250 Watts daytime, and began simulcasting with KDFC about that time. His time there was short.

In 1952, Lee landed his dream job when he joined KSJO (1590 AM) and began working morning drive, soon to have the top-rated morning show in the South Bay – the Lee Kopp Show. The call letters later changed to KLIV and Lee was named Program Director and Public Relations Director.

It was during these years that he became a sought-after master of ceremonies for community events, record hops, beauty pageants, sports banquets, and worked with many public affairs organizations.

Lee Kopp (at right) interviews actor Gregory Peck for San Jose’s KXRX in 1964

While Lee worked in various roles at KLIV and in the community, Charlotte began to pursue her professional singing career under the stage name Cory Lind. She cut several records with the Jack Marshall Orchestra and received local and regional air play for songs including: “Billie Loves Me,” “It’s Tragic But It’s True,” “Where Come the Rabbit From,” and “I’ll Never Cry Over You.”

The couple spent a good deal of time during the late ’50s and early ’60s doing live broadcast radio shows in the Los Angeles area, where Lee’s brother, Loren “Speed” Kopp, still lived and helped design restaurants and nightclubs, including Whisky a Go Go.

It was in 1961 that Lee’s life and career would take a major turn. He was offered the job of Director of News and Sports for all-news radio station KXRX (1500 AM). The 5,000-watt station, located in San Jose, had a full-time staff of five newsmen plus interns (largely from a San Jose State internship program that he instituted) and included a fleet of news cars and a single-engine airplane housed at San Jose Airport which was the first aircraft to track traffic in the local area. The reports were billed as the “Peeper in the Piper.”

The KXRX News Fleet at San Jose International Airport in 1967, with Lee Kopp at right. KXRX was the first Southbay station to use an airplane to report on local traffic conditions. (Shirlie Montgomery photo)

KXRX covered a broad range of stories in the Bay Area including city and county governments, police, fire, arts and business. Lee covered major trials and political events. KXRX gradually expanded to foster a Sacramento Bureau for news coming from the state capital, and set up contacts in major western markets for reciprocal feeds. Frequent stories were fed to both U.P.I. and A.P. including live coverage of local events with national implications such as the first Titan III launch from Cape Kennedy.

Numerous Awards of Excellence and Merit were presented to Lee and to the station. Lee became a representative of Voice of America for several years and produced a large variety of shows and interviews for them.

Lee Kopp on the air at San Jose's KXRX. (Undated photo)
Lee Kopp on the air at San Jose’s KXRX. (Undated photo)

When KXRX changed formats from all news, Lee left the station and spent his last professional years editing and producing news for KCBS from 1970 to 1994. He then retired to his home in San Jose. He spent much of that time listening to the Giants and the 49ers on the radio. He preferred that to watching the games on TV. His wife “Charlie” passed away in 2007.

Lee Kopp at the KCBS editor's desk (photo)
Lee Kopp at the KCBS editor’s desk, in a photo by his son, Lee Kopp III.

Lee Kopp passed peacefully in San Jose on March 26, 2010. A radio next to his bed was tuned to KGO-810.

Photos and biographical information courtesy of Lee Kopp III (Kopp Family archive)

Lee Kopp, Lee Kopp III, and Grand Dad, Rev. LeRoy Melvin Kopp, Sr., on the way to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena in 1969.
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Lee Kopp
Lee Kopp
27 January 2024 12:35 PM

Much thanks to David Jackson and Bay Area Radio Museum & Hall of Fame for this wonderful tribute to our father. Stacey McNeill (Kopp), Cynthia (Thea) Roseland (Kopp) and Lee Kopp III. Dad truly loved the radio. He loved music, he loved sports, but his passion was the news. I still carry a radio with me nearly everywhere I go and listen to the news every day.
A family photo from 1969. L-R: Dad, Lee III, and Grand Dad, Rev. LeRoy Melvin Kopp (on the way to the Rose Bowl).

Lee Kopp III
Lee Kopp III
25 March 2024 1:52 PM

A shot of Dad and Mom (Charlotte E. Kopp) from 1947. They met at KQW.

Lee Kopp and Charlotte Anderson-Kopp (1947 Photo)
Lee Kopp III
Lee Kopp III
25 March 2024 2:09 PM

During the late 50s and early 60s, Mom and Dad spent a good deal of time doing live broadcast radio shows in the Los Angeles area. Mom was working as a pop recording artist and Dad was acting as Masters of Ceremonies for a variety of programs. This is a shot of mom in the recording studio with Jack Marshall of the Jack Marshall Orchestra. c.1957.

Lee Kopp III
Lee Kopp III
25 March 2024 2:12 PM

The KQW towers from the First Baptist Church just down the street from the KQW studios.

Lee Kopp III
Lee Kopp III
25 March 2024 2:16 PM

One of the last shots I ever took of Dad working. KCBS. He basically started and ended his career with KCBS.

Lee Kopp at the KCBS editor's desk (photo)
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