Dickinson loses longtime radio broadcaster Lee LeissA man whose voice was prevalent on western North Dakota and eastern Montana radio airwaves for more than five decades has signed off for the final time.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
A man whose voice was prevalent on western North Dakota and eastern Montana radio airwaves for more than five decades has signed off for the final time.
Lee Leiss, the owner of KDIX in Dickinson, died Tuesday. He was 70.
Leiss passed away at the radio station he began working for in 1960 and had owned with his wife, Darlene Leiss, since 1992.
Rod Kleinjan, a longtime sports announcer for KDIX, said the community of Dickinson has lost one of its biggest supporters.
“He believed in the community and he believed athletics and sports was an extremely important part of the community and the station,” Kleinjan said. “That’s something we’re going to carry on.”
Leiss got his start in radio in the early ’60s with KDIX. He left there to work for a radio station in Grand Forks — for a short time, he did the broadcasts for University of North Dakota men’s hockey team — and helped start radio stations in Baker, Mont., Plentywood, Mont., and Wolf Point, Mont.
He returned to Dickinson, helping start the KLTC radio station before returning to KDIX. For a short time in the 1970s, he was the anchor for the KDIX television station.
“I would say radio has defined his life,” said Shawn Leiss, Lee’s son and the principal of Berg Elementary School in Dickinson.
One of Lee Leiss’ greatest passions was broadcasting sporting events, particularly baseball. He has traveled across the upper Midwest to broadcast Dickinson Roughriders American Legion baseball team’s games for nearly a decade.
“He was a distinct personality,” Kleinjan said. “He had his way of doing things. It was very ‘Lee’ how he did things, whether it was baseball, football or basketball.”
Leiss was also known as “Jefferson Clark,” his on-air personality.
“The Files of Jefferson Clark” was his seven-day-a-week on-air commentary.
“He did express some unique views at times,” Shawn Leiss said with a chuckle. “… He largely, most of the time, was honest and would basically give his views. Like it or not. You usually knew what he was thinking when he was talking about a subject. And he wasn’t afraid to take a stand.”
Shawn Leiss said “The Files of Jefferson Clark” was a unique aspect of independent radio ownership his father championed in a time when many radio stations are corporately owned.
“I’ve always kind of admired his courage,” Shawn Leiss said. “He wasn’t afraid to take a stand. There aren’t a lot of independent radio stations around. He really was kind of the last of the breed.”
A rosary and prayer service for Lee Leiss will be at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Stevenson Funeral Home in Dickinson. Visitation is from noon to 9 p.m. His funeral is at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in Dickinson.