“Mr. Television” Letterbox : Former TV personality and Houston City Councilman Dick Gottlieb is buried in this cemetery. (Emanu El Memorial Park), 8341 Bissonnet St, Houston, TX
A young Dick Gottlieb, World War II Veteran (recipient of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star) and new graduate of Texas A&M University, began his career in Houston, doing play-by-play of high school football games on Houston radio. He then went on to serve as an off-camera announcer on Houston’s first television station, KLEE-TV, and stayed with the station when it became KPRC-TV in 1950. He became a local celebrity known as 'Mr. Television' for the first decade and a half of Houston TV due to his popularity. He hosted a number of shows such as Darts for Dough an early local TV game show and Matinee a local daily variety/talk show that included interviews with many celebrities as they came through town. Dick was known as the man with good looks and most notably, a deep voice, unlike any others.
An infamous story from his early career happened 6/11/1950 as Dick was doing the play-by-play announcing for a TV broadcast of a Houston Buffs baseball game. The Houston Buffs were a St. Louis Cardinals farm team that played in Houston at Buff Stadium back in those pre-Astros days. During the broadcast, a man climbed into a roped off area that served as the TV booth in Buff Stadium. This man sat down beside Dick and started interrupting him. Dick repeatedly tried to quiet the man, but eventually this man pulled out a gun and shot himself. The director, informed by a cameraman what had just happened, asked to see it, and the carnage was shown on screen for a few seconds. The man died on the way to the hospital. Gottlieb was shaken but not hurt and the game and the broadcast continued.
On a happier note, Dick went on to become Master of Ceremonies for many local telethons and charity events. He helped raise untold dollar amounts for many good causes, beginning in 1952, when he spent many tiring hours pleading for funds on behalf of the Cerebral Palsy Association. According to Jack Harris and Ron Stone, viewers responded as they “watched him grow haggard from fatigue and listened to his increasingly hoarse pleadings”. A record amount of nearly $100,000 was raised at that event. He then hosted telethons for March of Dimes, Polio, Lighthouse for the Blind as well as others and eventually became known as the Houston face of the annual Jerry Lewis – MDA Telethon, working with Jerry Lewis himself in those early days of the telethon. Dick would stay awake and on camera for the full-length of the telethon, showing his fatigue as he carried on, loosening his tie, but continuing on to the end, right along with Jerry in those days.
After retiring from life as a TV personality, Dick Gottlieb’s next endeavor was in local politics. He became the first Jew to be elected to political office in Houston in the 20th century when he was chosen to the Houston City Council in 1969. He served on council from 1969 until 1972 when he decided to run for Mayor. Dick was narrowly defeated in his run for City of Houston Mayor in 1973 by Fred Hofheinz, in one of the closest elections on record. The election ended with a 1% variance between the 2 candidates – Fred Hofheinz 123,593 vs. Gottlieb’s 120,787.
Later years were spent as the owner of his own advertising agency – Dick Gottlieb Advertising, until his eventual retirement and diagnosis with Alzheimer’s Disease. Dick passed away in August of 1997 at the age of 73.
Emanu El Memorial Park is Open
from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the summer and
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter, Sunday through Friday.
Closed on Saturday.
8341 Bissonnet St, Houston, TX
To get to Emanu El Memorial Park, start at Highway 59, Bissonnet Exit. After exiting, proceed to the East on Bissonnet. The road will fork, take the road to the left to stay on Bissonnet. Continue on Bissonnet through the intersection with S GESSNER RD, Emanu El Memorial Park is located .1 miles past this intersection on the right.
After entering the cemetery, take the 1st right (before the gazebo) and park at the second stone pathway on the left (running perpendicular to the road).
Exit your car and proceed down the path about 25 steps to the first bench on the left. Turn left down the intersecting stone path and proceed to the next stone bench (dedicated to Philip Lusky). Directly to the left of this bench lies Dick Gottlieb’s grave with his wife, Rilda Gottlieb buried next to him.
Now to the letterbox……..From the grave, head back down the path towards the first bench, continuing past it. Say on this path until you reach the main road.
Follow the road to the right until you reach the fork in the road. Then take the direction to the left (not the one in which your car is parked).
Directly after the second stone path on your left after the fork, you will see two trees (one sticking straight up, the other leaning.) Head off of the road and around the trees to find yourself next to the grave of Henry George Binder.
Look back at the leaning tree slightly above eye level to find a large hole. Inside this hole, behind a handful of leaves you will find the Dick Gottlieb letterbox.
Please be discreet and after your stamping is complete, replace the box with the leaves on top. (Double check that the box is out of sight because the landscapers are VERY thorough!!)