LYFORD, Texas – The Memorial Service for Ronald James “Jimmy” Whitlock is to be at Gracepoint Fellowship in Harlingen on Saturday, May 8, at 10 a.m.
The address is 2601 West Bothwell Street, Harlingen, Texas.
Jimmy Whitlock was killed in an auto-pedestrian traffic accident on FM 498 in Lyford late Thursday evening. He was 41 years of age.
Veteran broadcaster Ron Whitlock, Jimmy’s father, said Jimmy’s family would like to thank John Kreidler of Kreidler Funeral Home; Mark M. Talbot, an attorney with The Villeda Law Group, and the many others that have sent food, flowers, and words of condolences, encouragement and support their way.
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Loving Son, Husband, and Father
Ron Whitlock paid tribute to his beloved son. He noted that Jimmy was executive director of the Sunday morning talk show, Valley Newsline with Ron Whitlock on KRGV-TV News Channel 5, and its predecessor program on the station, Borderline with Ron Whitlock.
Ron Whitlock said Jimmy Whitlock played a key role in Valley Newsline, both in terms of the production of the shows and the public policy positions the programs championed.
“Our shows focused on public policy and making sure the Rio Grande Valley secured its share of federal and state dollars. Both Valley Newsline, and later Ron Whitlock Reports, helped protect the license of the television stations by virtue of the fact that we were required to meet the needs, concerns, and interests of the community to which the stations were licensed to serve,” Ron Whitlock said.
“Jimmy was integral part of those shows. He was a co-founder of Valley Newsline and did the closed captioning and transcribing for Ron Whitlock Reports on KVEO-TV. When Jimmy and I took over the program on Channel 5 it was called Borderline with Bob Gilmartin. Mr. Gilmartin was fighting cancer so Jimmy and I started doing the program. Mr. Gilmartin only survived a month so after we took over the program.”
Ron Whitlock said he, Jimmy and another son, Edward Jackson Whitlock worked well with Ray Alexander, then-general manager of KRGV-TV and Bill Jorn, general manager of KVEO-TV.
“In collaboration with Ray Alexander, the legendary longtime general manager of KRGV, Jimmy came up with the name Valley Newsline with Ron Whitlock. That was the name for a period of time and then, with Jimmy as executive producer of the program, he and Ray changed the name so it was more closely aligned with the news department. It was called I Witness Newsline with Ron Whitlock. I Witness was the banner of the news department. That was the name for most of its time on News Channel 5 in the early 2000s.”
Ron Whitlock said there are some rare archived Valley Newsline shows with Jimmy Whitlock in front of the camera.
“I had been exposed to SARS and so could not go to the station. Jimmy actually did the entire program. He did the announcements, the hosting, the editing and the filming. He did it all. Usually we were partners. He did everything behind the camera and I did everything in front of the camera.”
Ron Whitlock said the collaboration with his son was productive, professional, and quality-driven.
“It was a tremendous collaboration because Jimmy was so gifted. He was a tremendous writer. His editing was always perfect.”
Ron Whitlock said he never saw the edited shows until they aired.
“I did not have to. I had total confidence in my son, Ronald James “Jimmy” Whitlock, and so I would sit there in tears, literally, because of the professionalism and the network-quality of the product that came out on News Channel 5 at that time.”
Ron Whitlock said his son had a heart for the causes the show believed in and advocated for.
“Take the need for healthcare, for example. Jimmy was the researcher, he was excellent at research and writing. The Valley had always been under-doctored and under-nursed. We had less pharmacists per capita than the rest of the state. Our region had always been under-served, medically,” Ron Whitlock recalled. “That bothered Jimmy a lot. Children’s healthcare was very important.”
When Ron Whitlock’s Sunday morning TV show migrated from Channel 5 to KVEO, Edward Jackson Whitlock took over the executive director and producer roles, with Jimmy Whitlock focusing on the closed captioning and transcripts. With the switch came a new name for the program, Ron Whitlock Reports, at the suggestion of Edward Jackson Whitlock.
“By going over to KVEO we followed Meet the Press every Sunday morning, which was great,” Whitlock said. “I remember when we interviewed then-Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on the floor of the Senate, to highlight the need for CHIP funding for children, Edward did the camera work and editing and Jimmy did the closed captioning. That was such an important topic for us. We helped get CHIP funding restored. We did it was getting a shot of Dewhurst sweating over how Valley hospitals would be affected if CHIP was not restored,” Ron Whitlock recalled.
The restoration of CHIP funding was huge for the Valley, Ron Whitlock said, citing information provided by state Sen. Eddie Lucio of Brownsville. “Over 150,000 Valley and border children, and others across Texas, had their medical care restored, Sen. Lucio, told me that $1 billion per biennium began flowing again back into the RGV and South Texas, to doctors, nurses, hospitals, pharmacies. This money multiplied many times over, representing over $4 billion into our economy since CHIP was restored.”
Ron Whitlock said that along with CHIP, another significant victory in their advocacy work was tort reform. He noted that the Rio Grande Valley was at the epicenter of the battle in the early 2000s.
“Frivolous lawsuits were bleeding the Valley of qualified doctors. Their malpractice medical premiums were escalating because jurors were giving out these multi-, multi-million dollar judgements against doctors in the area. And so we really advocated for that to change. That advocacy was given a platform over many, many programs and months.”
Ron Whitlock said then-Gov. Rick Perry had said during the run-up to the 2003 Legislature that the upcoming session was not the time to do tort reform, that it would be brought up in a later session.
“Listening to the doctors of the Valley, we knew we had to try to get Gov. Perry to change his mind. We did that in a meeting with Jim Springfield, the then-CEO and president of Valley Baptist Health System. We wondered what Tony Sanchez, the Democratic challenger, thought of Perry’s position. We got a response. Sanchez believed now was the time. Gov. Perry did an interview with us at the heart hospital. He had changed his mind. We then put in a call to Tom Craddick, the speaker apparent. We had him in the studio and he wholeheartedly supported the governor’s initiative. Tort reform passed and the rest is history.”
Ron Whitlock said tort reform was the biggest issue his TV program covered. “I have recollections of fondness of Jimmy’s work at that time. Professional ethics and integrity was beyond reproach with Jimmy Whitlock.”
Ronald James “Jimmy” Whitlock was born in Houston. His father said Baylor was chosen for the delivery because that was where his elder brother Ronald Blake Whitlock was taken after problems with his delivery. Ronald Blake Whitlock died at a week old.
“Baylor agreed to deliver Jimmy at the ICU on the basis that we would have a normal child the next time. Jimmy was that normal child. We had the head of the ICU there watching him in the delivery process. He was a definite blessing all his life.”
Jimmy Whitlock went to Incarnate Word Academy, Corpus Christi, for his pre-K and primary school education. The Whitlocks later moved to Kerrville because Ron Whitlock was launching KITE FM, only the second FM station in the Hill Country town. Jimmy Whitlock went to Kerrville’s parochial school until 8th grade. He then transferred to Tivy High School, Kerrville.
Asked what he was like outside of work, Ron Whitlock said of his son: “He would never pass up a homeless person in the street. He would give them every dollar in his pocket. He would not swat a cockroach, from the time he was a child. In the house, he would pick up a spider and take it outside. He was not happy with his Dad using bug spray. He was just a kind-hearted, warm, funny, friendly dedicated young man.”
Ron Whitlock said his Jimmy met his wife, Lorena, when both were involved with Faith Pleases God Church in Harlingen.
“Jimmy was in charge of the Royal Rangers, which was a Christian Boy Scouts organization run by Faith Pleases God. His civic involvement was being part of our public policy advocacy work. Fighting for the poorest of the poor, the neediest of the needy here in the border region. That is what we consider our philanthropy, to find those who do not have a voice, to be a voice, and give them a voice. Getting Children’s Health Insurance restored, getting the I-69 placards up, which drives the economy and creates more jobs, passing tort reform. All of those things ultimately help serving our colonias, the poorest of the poor, public ed, higher ed. That has always been Jimmy’s passion.”
Ron Whitlock added: “Jimmy was an excellent writer and a good editor on the TV side. That made our programs extremely powerful, with Jimmy at the helm.”
Ronald James Whitlock is survived by his wife Lorena, their son, Elijah Noe, and Lorena’s sister Aurelia Rodriguez.
Jimmy and Lorena’s family also includes Constantina Mancilla, Teresa Cabrera Mancilla, Yareli Mancilla, Constantino Mancilla, Grace Castillo, Ezau Castillo, Xiomara Castillo, Joe Rodriguez, Gizzele Rodriguez, Chris Enriquez, Maria Garcia Rojas, Gabriel Garcia Rojas, Daniela Garcia Rojas, and Joseph Garcia Rojas.
Jimmy and Lorena’s family also includes Ron and Anna Whitlock, Edward Jackson Whitlock and his wife Crystal, Keith Whitlock, aunt Susie Grossman, Myron Grossman, Marcia Mullins, Mark Mullins, Angie and Terry Campbell, great aunt Joy Lynn, and great uncle Spencer Knapp.
Kreidler Funeral Home, Inc., of McAllen is in charge of arrangements.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above tribute story shows Jimmy Whitlock.