Forty years ago: KPFT bombed off the air twice in its first year

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Pacifica Radio’s KPFT in Houston “was the first radio station in the United States to be bombed off the air” in May 1970, soon after going on the air, recalled Rick Campbell in a Houston Chronicle blog. That October, 40 years ago this month, the station was dynamited into silence a second time during a broadcast of Arlo Guthrie’s song “Alice’s Restaurant.”

Three members of the Ku Klux Klan were arrested; two got off by testifying against Jimmy Dale Hutto, who was convicted and sent to jail. He allegedly planned to bomb the Pacifica stations in Berkeley and Los Angeles.

When the station resumed broadcasting in January 1971, PBS’s Great American Dream Machine covered the event live. “Outside this room, people are celebrating free speech,” said station manager Larry Lee on PBS, “and something is wrong when free speech is a cause for celebration, and there are armed police out there guarding us.” Guthrie wrote a song for the occasion, including these lyrics: “When I get to Houston, pull out my strings, walk to the station, you can hear me sing — you get bombed, all God’s chillun get bombed.”

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