Samuel Houston, WCBM engineer

September 27, 1994|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Sun Staff Writer

Samuel Hopkins Houston, who as an engineer for radio station WCBM arranged remote broadcasts from the White House and was given lunch by Eleanor Roosevelt, died Saturday of heart failure at Manor Care Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Towson. He was 84.

Mr. Houston, who was a licensed pilot, joined WCBM in 1932 and retired in 1975.

While on assignment to the White House, Mrs. Roosevelt discovered him in the library, playing with Fala, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's dog.

"He was in the library where FDR delivered his 'Fireside Chats' when Mrs. Roosevelt came in," recalled his wife of 59 years, the former Katherine Bennett. "She asked him if he had had lunch or if he wanted anything to eat, and when he said yes, she left the room. A little while later, she reappeared carrying a tray of sandwiches for him," Mrs. Houston said.

He covered three of FDR's inaugurals and often could be found backstage in Baltimore theaters, covering the performances of the numerous celebrities who appeared.

"He knew so many people, including Lionel Hampton, Bing Crosby and Guy Lombardo," his wife said.

"One time when Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians were appearing at Keith's Theater, he was asked to help sign Guy's pictures for the fans who were waiting for them. His scrawl was similar to Guy's and no one could tell the difference," she said.

He was born and reared in Forest Park and was a 1928 graduate of Forest Park High School.

After attending the University of Maryland, he earned his radio license and joined WCBM. He designed and built the station's studios at Charles and 26th streets and at its Owings Mills facility.

Mr. Houston, who served in the Naval Reserve from 1928 to 1936, was an amateur radio operator -- his call letters were W3DKE -- who built his own equipment.

He was a member of the Chesapeake Mineral Society, the Gem Cutters of Baltimore and the Mount Washington Rod and Gun Club.

Services were set for 1 p.m. today at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.

Other survivors include three sons, Samuel B. of Hagerstown, William A. of Glenarm and James R. Houston of Baltimore; a daughter, Linda Houston of Towson; five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to the American Heart Association, P.O. Box 17025, Baltimore 21203; or the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 43025, Baltimore 21236-0025.

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