Dorothy Stimson Bullitt
was born in her wealthy family’s home on Queen Anne Hill. At age three, Dorothy and her family moved into their new half-timber house now known as the Stimson-Green Mansion, in the First Hill neighborhood of Seattle. Instead of high school or college, Dorothy attended Mrs. Dow’s Finishing School in New York. At age 26, she moved to Kentucky upon marrying 41-year-old Alexander Scott Bullitt, a Lexington attorney and aspiring politician. Two years later, in 1920, the couple returned to Seattle. While her husband pursued a political career and also helped her father and brother manage the family business interests, Dorothy primarily raised their three children.
When Dorothy’s father died in 1929, her brother Thomas took over the family estate. Then, Thomas died in 1931, as the result of a fatal airplane accident; Dorothy’s husband Scott helped run things. But when Scott died in April of 1932 from liver cancer, the 40-year-old widow, who had never had to work for a living, found herself virtually alone and in charge of the family fortune and business interests, which by then consisted mainly of real estate, something Dorothy knew almost nothing about. It was also the height of the Great Depression and many of the businesses that leased from her were understandably failing. Despite having no college education and given all the prejudices against working women at the time, Dorothy managed to restore her family’s real estate business back to financial health.
She first became excited about a new invention called television in 1939, after seeing a demonstration of one at a department store in New York. In 1946, she borrowed $190,000 to purchase a failing Seattle AM radio station that had a religious format. After hearing “religious hucksters begging listeners to…send in a dollar or God will punish you,” Dorothy immediately placed a ban against selling her station’s airtime to religious organizations. She also changed the station’s call letters from KEVR to KING, to coincide with its location in King County. In 1948, she applied for and received a license for an FM station, which she used to broadcast classical music. Seattle’s KING-FM radio is still playing classical music to this day, sixty years later.
The Stimson Mansion
In 1949, Dorothy purchased eight-month-old Seattle television station KRSC-TV and renamed it KING-TV. She determined that her company, King Broadcasting, should serve the public rather than strive for ratings and revenue. KING-TV soon gained a reputation for having one of the best local newscasts in the nation, as well as excellent documentaries and high quality children’s programming. Although her son took over as president of King Broadcasting in 1961, Dorothy chaired the board until 1977, and until shortly before her death in 1989, could be found most days of the week in the office she refused to relinquish.
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