Lillian Lincoln Howell (1921 – 2014)

Broadcast TV Pioneer & KTSF Owner Lillian Lincoln Howell Dies
February 26, 1921 – August 31, 2014
Asian Language TV Station To Continue Under Family Ownership

3 September 2014 – SAN FRANCISCO, CA: TV pioneer and longtime owner of the San Francisco Bay Area television station KTSF Lillian Lincoln Howell died peacefully at her South Bay home on August 31. Born February 26, 1921, she was 93 years old.

“My mother was a visionary in the broadcasting industry and a generous philanthropist,” said her son, Lincoln Howell, KTSF CEO. “She took big risks in her life and created our station’s mission: to serve the underserved. That she did and as her legacy, that we’ll continue to do.”

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Howell was the eldest of three children born to industrialist and inventor John C. Lincoln and his wife Helen. Her father, the oldest son of a minister, founded Lincoln Electric in 1895. She attended Pomona College where she later graduated in 1943. Following graduation, she taught preschool in California, worked as a recreational director in a disabled children’s home in Phoenix, and married Carl Howell, with whom she had her only son, Lincoln. After the couple separated in 1957, Lillian moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. In the mid-1960s, she learned that the Federal Communications Commission was making a license available for a new commercial television station in the San Francisco market. She applied and was granted the license by the FCC. In 1976, she started KTSF television, whose programming was designed to reflect the diversity of the Bay Area’s Asian American community. Under Howell’s ownership, KTSF became the first television station in the United States to focus on Asian-language and other ethnic programming, offering programming in 12 different languages.

The station began transmitting from San Bruno Mountain on September 4, 1976, with Chinese and Japanese programming from overseas and syndicated reruns of U.S. programs.

“My mother wanted to offer programming to people that no other station was serving,” said her son. “She committed a substantial amount of her programming to the Asian format.”

At that time, Asian Americans made up only five percent of the Bay Area population. Today, the television market’s Asian American population is more than 23 percent. Over the years, KTSF responded to the changing demographics and began adding live newscasts in Cantonese and Mandarin.

“Lillian Howell was unique in that she marched to the beat of her own drum and firmly stuck to her own beliefs, regardless of popular convention,” said her daughter-in-law Barbara Bissell-Howell. “It wasn’t profits that motivated her interest in buying a television station, but rather helping the community. Even as she approached the age of 90, Lillian continued to attend weekly manager meetings at the station. As owner, the welfare of her employees was always a priority.”

Howell believed in giving back through generous charitable donations and as such created the Lillian Lincoln Foundation which funds documentaries on topics of interest to her: land reform in Taiwan, primary education in Japan, the Swedish system of caring for its elders, micro-lending for women in the third world, and cultural exchange between American and Vietnamese theatrical producers, among others.

Howell is survived by her son, Lincoln Howell, her daughter in-law, Barbara Bissell-Howell, her granddaughter, Alisha Howell, and her brother, David Lincoln. Following a private funeral, plans for a public memorial will be forthcoming.

Media Contact: David Perry (415) 676-7007 /

Cantonese News

Mandarin News

開創美國亞裔電視新聞先河的KTSF電視台創辦人Lillian Lincoln Howell 逝世, 享年93歲。

Lillian Lincoln Howell 於1976年獲得電視廣播牌照,當時她決定為灣區的亞裔社區服務,成為全美首個提供中文節目的電視台。

「在1976年,她發現沒有人為亞裔社區服務,所以她決定面向亞裔社區」KTSF 26台總經理Mike Sherman說。

Mike Sherman表示,Lillian Howell 自資辦電視台並非為賺錢,完全本著為弱勢社區服務的理念,「非為盈利,事實上開台頭十年都虧本,當時的亞裔社區不夠大,不能支持電視台的營運。 她每兩週要來電視台,開個人支票給員工出糧,她要為亞裔社區服務。」

Lillian Howell 出身富裕家庭,爸爸是著名工業及發明家 John Lincoln。 Lillian Howell 在俄亥俄州克里夫蘭出生,來南加州唸大學,畢業後當幼兒園老師,後來搬到舊金山灣區定居,開辦KTSF26台並投身於慈善事業。

安老自助處行政主任鍾月娟說:「Lillian Howell 20多年都支持安老自助處籌款晚宴。她和藹、慷慨, 對非牟利團體、老人家,對有需要的人幫助很大。」

認識Lillian Howell 20多年的鍾月娟表示,Howell 喜歡中國文化,尤其喜愛吃中餐,並曾表示要弘揚中華文化。鍾月娟表示,26台免費為非牟利團體製作公益宣傳短片,本地新聞節目多年來又為華人社區發聲,確是完成了Howell 為社區服務的心願。


「當亞洲移民剛到步,當晚便觀看KTSF26台。想想他們來到新的地方,很焦慮,看到他們熟悉語言的節目,我們幫他們了解本地的情況」Mike Sherman說。


Howell 的家人發聲明表示,將繼續秉持Howell 為社區服務的精神,延續她的傳奇。Lillian Howell 上週日在南灣的家中安詳離世,享年93歲。