James “Evan” Slack, a longtime radio broadcaster who founded a Denver-based, self-named radio network specializing in agriculture news and reports, died Sept. 19 in Arizona. He was 86.
In 1985, he founded the Evan Slack Network, which could be heard across the Rocky Mountain Empire, from Montana to New Mexico, in northern Nevada and eastern Oregon. His programs were heard on over 40 radio stations in nine states, including Colorado, and in Canada. A pilot, Slack enjoyed flying and traveling in a Mooney 252. He earned his pilot’s license in 1967.
Weather, agricultural news, grain and livestock markets were extensively covered on Slack’s network. He delivered four-minute reports five times daily — twice in the morning and three times in the afternoon, according to his website. Close to 20 Colorado radio stations carried his programs, with about another 40 from around the Western U.S.
Pat Grant, former President and CEO of the National Western Stock Show from 1990-2010, described his longtime friend Slack as a “fun, outgoing, effervescent, swashbuckling kind of guy.”
Over the years Slack was a generous and steady supporter of National Western scholarships, which funded rural youth to advance their careers in ranching and farming, Grant recalled.
“He really did feet strongly about his Western way of life, and certainly the ranching way of life,” Grant said.
Born on Aug. 6, 1934, on a family farm in Seymour, Mo., Slack attended Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University) for a year before serving in the U.S. Marine Corps for two years. He returned to Missouri and earned a degree in agriculture, with a minor in journalism, from the University of Missouri.
Slack’s radio career began in June 1952 at KWTO, in Springfield, Mo. He found his way to Colorado and worked for several radio stations including KOA in Denver, reporting on farm and ranch news, before founding the Slack Network. He sold the network in January.
Slack received many honors over his decades of “on the air and in the air” reporting, said Carolyn Browne, his companion of 37 years.
“His life was exciting. He had the airplane, we flew everywhere we went, mostly to smaller communities,” Browne said. “He was always on the go.”
The couple flew often to agriculture trade conventions, cattle sales and to ranches, Browne said.
“It was an exciting life,” she said. “We met lots of people and saw lots of places.”
Browne recalled having lunch with Slack and Robert Norris, a rancher known for his role as the original “Marlboro Man,” at the Pink Pony restaurant in Scottsdale, Ariz.
A lifetime member of the Colorado Cattleman’s Association, Slack was an inductee of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters Hall of Fame, and the Broadcast Pioneers of Colorado Hall of Fame. He’s a former president of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting.
David Zalubowski, a photographer, lived down the hall from Slack in a Denver high-rise apartment building. They were neighbors since 1996.
“He was still getting up at 4:15 a.m. each morning, until a few years ago, to do one of his daily reports,” Zalubowski said. “You could hear him from down the hall reading his script, you could hear it — that broadcast voice.”
Slack was away often, Zalublowski said, attending county fairs and agriculture expositions all over the Intermountain West. “His life was dictated by the dates of the National Western, the American Royal and the Greeley Stampede” among other events.
A baseball fan, Slack rooted for the St. Louis Cardinals in his youth working on the family farm. In Denver, he was a season ticket holder with the Colorado Rockies.
Slack is survived by Browne; and a sister, Barsha Batson.
A memorial service, delayed because of the pandemic, will be held in the spring of 2021 at Trinity Methodist Church in Denver.
Memorial contributions may be made to the NAFB Foundation, or to a charity of the donor’s choice.
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