GREENWICH, Conn. (AP) — Robert Rosencrans, the first board chairman of C-SPAN who helped steer the public affairs network through its opening years and worked for the organization for almost four decades, has died. He was 89.
Rosencrans' wife, Marjorie, told The Associated Press on Thursday that her husband of 59 years died Wednesday at a hospital in Greenwich, Connecticut, surrounded by his family. He had recently suffered a stroke.
"He was such a special man. Everybody that knew him, loved him," said Majorie Rosencrans, who described herself as "lucky" to have found him.
As the then-president of UA-Columbia Cable, Rosencrans and business partner Ken Gunter became the first cable operators to support the idea of Brian Lamb, who envisioned C-SPAN as a public affairs channel, the network said in a statement. At that time, less than 20 percent of U.S. homes were wired for cable.
Rosencrans wrote a check for $25,000 and convinced other cable industry people to contribute to what proved to be the seed money that helped create the infrastructure to transmit the first live broadcasts of the U.S. House of Representatives on March 19, 1979, to roughly 3.5 million homes served by 350 cable systems.
"He never wanted any personal credit for it, but if it hadn't been for Bob Rosencrans, there probably wouldn't be a C-SPAN," Lamb, now C-SPAN's executive chairman, said in a statement. "Bob was a tremendous human being."
In a video tribute on C-SPAN, Rosencrans described the role of the network as giving the American public access to the proceedings in the nation's capital.
"Let the public understand what goes on in Washington, what the issues are and how to deal with them," he said. "And I think above all, the mission here at C-SPAN has been just that, and we're very proud of that."
He saw the exposure as a chance to educate and inform.
"We believe that our nation can only benefit from more exposure to our political process; to educate and inform our people, both young and old, and give us all a better feeling that we are participating in this process that carries our nation forward," he said.
Rosencrans served as C-SPAN's chairman emeritus until his death.
He leaves behind his wife and four children.