Al Leighton, Founder of Leighton Broadcasting Dies at 86

Jun 28, 2012 at 1:11 pm

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (KNSI) - KNSI owner and founder and owner of Leighton Broadcasting, Al Leighton, passed away Thursday morning. Leighton was 86 years old.

After growing up in Elk River and stint in the Army in World War II, Leighton began his broadcasting career in 1951 as a news and sports reporter at KLIZ in Brainerd. From there, he moved in to radio sales and learned other aspects of the business, eventally rising to become general manager of KDLM in Detroit Lakes in 1958.

Leighton bought controlling interest in KDLM and began forging a career as a central Minnesota broadcasting legend. In 1975, Leighton bought St. Cloud's KFAM-AM-FM, rebranding the station as KCLD. Leighton Broadcasting corporate headquarters moved to St. Cloud in 1982, where the company operates four stations today -- KCLD, KNSI, KZPK and KCML.

"Our dad was truly one from the greatest generation," Leighton's son and current Leighton Broadcasting CEO, Bob Leighton, said. "From a small farm in Elk River to enlisting in World War II, to raising a family of nine to building a broadcasting business from nothing but a dream and desire to be on the radio, our dad lived the American dream."

In addition to KDLM, Leighton Broadcasting also includes KBOT-FM, KRCQ-FM, also in Detroit Lakes; as well as KYCK-FM, KNOX-AM/FM, KZGF-FM, KGFK-FM and KZLT-FM in Grand Forks, N.D.

Leighton was the past president of the Minnesota Broadcasting Association and was a charter inductee into the Minnesota Museum of Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2001.

"It's really the end of an era. Al Leighton really personified the broadcaster of the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and into the beginning of a new millennium. He was really a bridge across into that new era," Minnesota Musuem of Broadcasting managing director Steve Raymer said. "He was an outstanding individual...Al was a great guy."

Friend Jim Wychor said he first met Al Leighton in 1964, when Leighton was working in Detroit Lakes, and Wychor was working at a radio station in Worthington.

"He was a very, very smart astute broadcaster, a good businessman and he was a lot of fun. He was humorous. He and his wife were a lot of fun to be around, just very very well admired by radio broadcasters all around Minnesota," "He took radio stations that were marginal and made this very successful. He was very good."

Funeral services for Al Leighton will be held at St. Augustine's Church, 442 2nd Street SE in St. Cloud at 10 a.m. Monday. Viewing hours scheduled from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday and 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturday

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