G. Richard Shafto | Legacy of Leadership Interview

G. Richard Shafto (1904-2002)

For generations, the Shaftos have shared a love for the sea, perhaps as far back as the seagoing Bobby Shafto written of in the Mother Goose rhyme. Like his father, Dick Shafto carried on the family tradition.    

Godfrey Richard Shafto was born April 22, 1904, in Cliffwood, New Jersey, the son of Wesley Kramer Harris Shafto and Florence Anna Victoria Simes Shafto. The family moved to Richmond, Virginia, when Dick Shafto was 10 years old.    

His father went to sea as a civilian for the Navy aboard a coal carrier and instilled in his son a love for the sea that would last a lifetime. While his father wanted him to attend the United States Naval Academy—and he became a candidate for an appointment—Dick Shafto became so drawn to the new medium of radio during high school that Annapolis would not be a part of his future.

World War I shut down his high school radio club's operation, but when the war ended, he built his own amateur station and his own broadcast station.

After high school, he spent two years as a radio operator aboard freighters, tankers, seagoing tugs, and ocean liners. He recalled in an interview that the work was easy, there was considerable dignity inherent, and he was the one crew member always in touch with the rest of the world.

He attended the Radio Institute in New Orleans and, later, while working at the Radio Corporation of America laboratories, did further study at Columbia University in New York and at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

He subsequently worked for Westinghouse Supply Company in Tampa, Florida, and managed radio stores in nearby St. Petersburg. In 1929, he joined the Graybar Electric Company as a radio specialist in charge of distribution of radio equipment in seven Southeastern states, thus beginning his long ties with South Carolina.

In May 1933, Shafto became general manager of WIS Radio in Columbia. Within three months, he had secured full-time National Broadcasting Company service for WIS. He made it his goal to modernize the station operations and to make WIS one of the region's leading stations. As the organization grew and took the name of Cosmos Broadcasting Corporation, Shafto became a dynamic part of that growth, managing a company that eventually controlled six radio stations, three television stations, and six cable television systems.    

Shafto's peers recognized his contributions to the broadcasting industry. He was the first president of the South Carolina Broadcasters Association, a director of the National Association of Broadcasters, chairman of the association's Television Code Review Board, and chairman of the NBC Stations Planning and Advisory Committee. He also was the first president of the Broadcast Pioneers Educational Fund, Inc.    

Because of national recognition for his expertise, he became a consultant with the Office of War Information during World War II and represented the United States as a delegate to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization in Paris in 1949.    

He contributed generously of his time and resources to civic, social, and church activities in Columbia, the Midlands, and Hilton Head Island. A neighbor, close friend, and confidant of the late Governor James F. Byrnes, Shafto served as president and, later, president emeritus of the James F. Byrnes Foundation.    

In 1964, he and his wife, the former Triva Hanson, established the Shafto Foundation Trust to administer the G. Richard Shafto Scholarships in Communications at the University of South Carolina. He was the driving force in establishing the Broadcasting Communications Archives within the McKissick Museum complex at the University of South Carolina.

On June 1, 1973, Shafto was the first person to be inducted into the South Carolina Broadcasters Hall of Fame, which is administered by the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina. In 1979, the University of South Carolina presented Shafto an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

Triva Shafto died in September 1990. He married Elizabeth Jordan in November 1991, and she died January 1, 1993.   

He was inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame in 1988.     

G. Richard Shafto died May 31, 2002.

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