Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Friends remember Cactus Pryor

Staff Writer
Austin 360

"I met Cactus at Austin High School. We went to Air Corps together, and finally to Emporia, Kan., to preflight school. One Saturday morning, we went for a walk and met up with some girls that Cactus knew. He introduced me to a girl and said something to the effect that we were meant for each other. Rosalie and I ended up dating and married a year later. She passed away in 2008, three days shy of 64 years of marriage. He's been a dear friend for 60 to 70 years. I will miss him."

— Wallace Lundgren, friend since high school

"I don't know if I ever came right out and told him, but he was such a huge father figure to me and will be for the rest of my life. Since his diagnosis, Cactus would occasionally drop by the studio when I was on the air. He didn't always remember my name, but he always had that same smile that let me know he still knew me, and you could tell he still loved being where the microphones were. I'm very happy that Cactus lived such a long, full life and touched so many thousands of people's lives. He truly was the heart and soul of both KLBJ AM and FM."

— Dale Dudley, KLBJ

"Cactus has been our dear friend since we moved to Austin in 1957. He hosted ‘The Darrell Royal Show.' It was taped at the studio on Sunday morning after every football game. Cactus made the show interesting even after losses. He found humor in all things. We will miss our dear friend."

Legendary former University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal and his wife, Edith

"Cactus has been my friend for more than 50 years. We have been to Paris, London, Scotland, the Salmon River and the coast of Texas. Everywhere he goes, he is the same. He knows governors, presidents and just plain people. He always has a little humor lurking inside of him, just waiting to get out. He could make you laugh no matter who you were. His wit and talent worked all over the United States. Cactus, you were the best and funniest that Austin has ever had."

Bob Armstrong, former Texas land commissioner and assistant secretary for land and minerals management at the U.S. Interior Department under President Bill Clinton

"Back in the previous century, as a new TV writer on the beat, I knew I would have to write about the legendary Cactus Pryor at some point, so I called him at his office at KTBC, at that point a CBS affiliate and the top-rated station in town. Notoriously cryptic on the phone, Cactus said, ‘Come on over,' then hung up without so much as a goodbye. Not good, I thought. But that was the beginning of a 30-year professional relationship that became sweetly personal at the end. Alternately mischievous and courtly, Cactus taught me everything about the history of TV in Austin and a lot about human nature. He was big-hearted, a sparkling wit, philosophical and deeply concerned about people he knew and people he didn't know."

— Diane Holloway, Austin American-Statesman TV writer, 1979-2009

"When I arrived in Austin 43 years ago, the first voices I heard on the radio were those of Cactus Pryor and his sidekick Packer Jack Wallace. Over the ensuing decades, what a delight and blessing it was to get to know why Cactus was not only the voice but was the heart and conscience of our city, on a par with his friend John Henry Faulk. At our last lunches in the iconic Frisco Shop and Hill's Cafe, though his famously sharp and witty mind was beginning to fade, he still had vivid stories of the times and people who made the 20th century in Austin such a unique experience. Farewell, Cactus, and thermerstrockimortimer."

— Ben Sargent, Austin American-Statesman editorial cartoonist, 1974-2009

"Cactus spent over half a century of his professional life in our family's broadcasting business. Each year he presented our board with the record of thousands of hours he had selflessly given to community causes. He never even thought of seeking compensation for his service to community. He was the ultimate professional volunteer. Every time I think of ‘one-liner wisdom,' social justice, natural beauty or a good laugh, I'll think of Cactus and rejoice. He was my lifelong friend."

— Luci Baines Johnson, daughter of President Lyndon Johnson

"From the '50s, when he was my mentor at the radio station — I never was very good at the switchboard — to our glorious vacations at Martha's Vineyard, where he adopted my teenage daughter, Jennifer, as his buddy, Cactus has been a source of joy to my family. I will miss his humor, loyalty and his intellect. He was the model of the good and faithful friend from the Bible."

— Lynda Johnson Robb, daughter of President Lyndon Johnson

"I loved to play golf with Cactus. It was not about the golf but the conversations during the round. He loved to talk about how the legendary Austin Country Club pro Harvey Penick lived near him by the old country club. We would exchange golf memories and stories, and I was so happy when he included two golf stories of mine in his final book about golf. One of his most powerful stories dealt with the assassination of President Kennedy. Cactus was at the LBJ Ranch that fateful Friday preparing for a dinner the next night at the ranch. Cactus was in charge of the entertainment for the evening. One of the entertainers that night was to be a demonstration of sharpshooting. I think that always stayed with Cactus. He learned of the president's death while in the kitchen of the ranch before the world knew. He was one of the best."

— Ed Clements, sports show host, KLBJ

"Cactus was an ambassador for Austin long before Willie or Lance and even his mentor, President Johnson. Few remember, or know, that Cactus was recruited by the major networks numerous times to become a national TV celebrity. I always admired that he declined. He taught me in 1977 that life can be more fulfilling and substantively rewarding in Austin, Texas, than anywhere else in the country. He taught through his actions of embracing everyone and giving back. I told myself as a 22-year-old kid in the '70s that he is the man I most wanted (and want) to be like. ... He was my mentor in the broadcasting business. Even though we have always been on competing radio stations, the class and genuine compassion Cactus always displayed rose far above all the pettiness typically displayed in our business. He was always funny, always above the fray. Always the personification of class and the personification of not just a Texan, but an Austin Texan. Austin has lost their original ambassador, and the bar set too high to ever be equaled."

— Bob Cole, radio talk show host, KVET