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Paul W. Klipsch, 'A Legend in Sound,' dies at age 98

Paul Wilbur Klipsch, a great inventor, engineer, scientist, pilot and legendary eccentric, died May 5, 2002, at the age of 98.


ico State University's Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering is named for Klipsch, one of the university's most famous graduates.



Born March 9, 1904, in Elkhart, Ind., to Oscar W. and Minna (Eddy) Klipsch, he was best known for his contributions in revolutionizing the world of audio. From a young age, Paul W. Klipsch was fascinated with acoustics and radio; he built his own radio receiver a year before the first public radio broadcast.

New Mexico A&M, now New Mexico State University, became his alma mater in 1926, when he graduated with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. It was here that he developed a deeper love and knowledge for music, musicians and musical instruments.

He was a member of the championship ROTC rifle team and a charter member of the Mu Phi Pu honorary engineering fraternity. From there he was employed in the field of radio by General Electric and then followed another passion for trains to Tocopilla, Chile, from 1928-1931. There he supervised the maintenance of seven electric locomotives, but his interest and experimentation in radios never waned.

In 1931, upon returning to the United States, he entered Stanford University and graduated with a master's degree in electrical engineering, meanwhile continuing research in audio frequency/efficiency. From 1931 through 1941 he was employed in Houston in the field of oil exploration. He engineered and developed eight patents in the field of geophysical exploration. The research on his audio speaker design continued from his home, where he began submitting his first patent for horn design, which initially wasn't accepted.

In 1941, he was drafted into service during WWII and was stationed at the Southwest Proving Grounds in Hope, Ark. His contributions to the defense of this country were in the form of ballistics and photography. He was discharged with a rank of major and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the reserves in 1953.

After WWII, Klipsch decided to commit his life and "build loudspeakers." He remained in Hope, continued his research and experimentation, applied for and was granted patents and trademarks. The name Klipsch and Associates was registered in 1946, although his first employee wasn't hired until 1948.

In 1950, he realized another dream and became a pilot.

Throughout his life, Klipsch had three patents in ballistics, eight in geophysics and 12 in acoustics. His Heritage line of speakers, including the Klipschorn, LaScala, Belle, Cornwall and Heresy, are known worldwide for their quality and accuracy that continue to set the standard in the industry for over 50 years.

Klipsch was a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc., the Audio Engineering Society and the Acoustical Society of America. He was a member of Mu Phi Pi, which through Sigma Tau became Tau Beta Pi, New Mexico Alpha Chapter and Gamma Chapter at Stanford, as well as a member in Sigma Xi, an honorary research society. He is listed in Who's Who in Engineering and Who's Who in Electronics. In 1966 he was awarded the New Mexico State University Alumni Award. In 1978 he was awarded the Audio Engineering Society's Silver Medal "for innovative contributions to loudspeaker design and studies of acoustic distortion." He received an Honorary Doctor of Law Degree from New Mexico State University in 1981. In 1983, he was inducted into the Audio Hall of Fame.

He was named Citizen of the Year in the city of Hope in 1985. In 1989, he received the Hi~Fi News Award for Achievement in Audio.

The years 1993,1994 and 1995 saw the dedications of the Paul W. Klipsch Lecture Hall, the Paul W. Klipsch Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and finally the Klipsch School of Electrical Engineering, all at New Mexico State University.

The city of Hope again honored him in 1995 with its dedication of the Paul W. Klipsch Municipal Auditorium.

In 1997 New Mexico State University dedicated the Klipsch Museum, providing a scholarly and entertaining view of engineering history.

His most distinguished award was received in 1997, when he was inducted and enshrined in the Engineering and Science Hall of Fame for acoustic, ballistic and geophysical contributions and became memorialized with such members as Thomas Edison, Jonas Salk and the Wright Brothers. Each individual is honored for his outstanding achievement and contribution to society.

Klipsch was recognized as a visionary whose perseverance has improved the quality of life for all humanity. As recent as 2001 he received the Award of Distinction from the Little Rock Arts and Humanities Promotion Commission.

Paul Wilbur Klipsch was also a man known for his wisdom, integrity, compassion, generosity and wit. He was a 33rd Degree Mason and a member of the Rotary Club since 1946.

His philanthropic interests were far reaching. He is a long-time benefactor and supporter of the Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, providing scholarships at the graduate and undergraduate levels, as well as other endowments. He and his wife Valerie were honored in March 2002 with the Circle of Excellence-Gold by New Mexico State University for their generous contributions.

Other benefactors include the Pueblo Indian Endowment, Wildwood Park for the Performing Arts, Arkansas State University, Little Rock Symphony, the Masons and Eastern Star, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the Arkansas Ballet.

Others have described the man as raw, eccentric, ubiquitous, straightforward, controversial, fascinating, whimsical and extraordinary; these grasp but a small yet famous portion of his personality. He admitted that this part of his personality has been "played up," so he played along "just for the effect." His well-known eccentricities encompass "little black/brown books" with secret code and drawings, the nom de plume, O. Gadfly Hurtz, an endless list of oxymorons, wearing four watches at all times, and his most famous of all the small yellow buttons with "Bullshit" written in old English script.

Paul Wilbur Klipsch held infinite philosophies on life that he evolved over his 98 years. He always gave credit to Divine Guidance, and invoked it frequently. He lived his life according to the highest moral and ethical standards, both personally and professionally. He achieved fame and fortune without arrogance.

Klipsch is survived by his loving wife Valerie. They would have celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary on May 28.

He also is survived by one son, Raymond D. Booles, and his wife, Mary, of Hot Springs, Ark.; two grandchildren, Lee R. Booles, and, his wife, Alicia of Benton, Ark., and Shanon Karl Booles of North Little Rock; two great grandchildren, Robert G. Booles and Paul Michael Booles of Robertsdale, Ala.; one cousin, Carl Frances Uhrbans of Columbus, Ind.; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Funeral services are being handled by Herndon Funeral Home of Hope. The service will be at 10 a.m. Friday, May 10. Interment will follow at the Rose Hill Cemetery.

Mrs. Klipsch requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Paul Klipsch Scholarship Fund at New Mexico State University.

Photo is available at http://ucommphoto.nmsu.edu/newsphoto/klipsch_paul.jpg.

May 06, 2002