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RCA’s ‘Mr. Color TV’ Dead At 86

Indianapolis, Ind. – William E. Boss, Jr., 86, who was known as “Mr. Color TV” for his role in bringing the technology to market while working as an executive with RCA, died here July 16, according to a report in the Indianapolis Star newspaper.

Boss, who was inducted into the Consumer Electronics Association’s (CEA) Hall of Fame in 2002, was a long-time RCA sales and marketing executive and served the CE industry as chairman and VP of the Consumer Electronics Group’s board (CEG). He served as a member on both the Electronic Industries Association (EIA) and CEG board for 20 years and was a past chairman of the EIA.

According to his CEA Hall of Fame page, Boss joined RCA in 1947 as a sales representative and was later given the task of leading an effort to convince broadcasters, distributors and dealers to work together for the success of TV.

He served as the director of color TV development from 1954-1962 when color TV was first launched and was responsible for stimulating color TV programming and sales, and became known as RCA’s “Mr. Color TV,” the CEA said.

Boss ascended to the position of distributor relations VP for RCA’s Consumer Electronics Division in the early 1970s.

He also served as manager of RCA distributor branches in Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y., and Erie, Pa. and was sales VP of RCA Victor Distributing Corp. He left RCA to accept a senior marketing post with Admiral in 1963, later held positions at Motorola and GTE Sylvania, before rejoining RCA in late 1972 as product management VP, according to the CEA.

The CEA said Boss also was instrumental in forming the EIA Foundation, served on its board for 12 years and received EIA’s Distinguished Service Award in 1979 and the National Retail Dealers Association (NARDA) Man of the Year award in 1981.

According to the Indianapolis Star, Boss was born June 22, 1922 in Waltham, Mass., to the late William and Lena Boss. He is survived by his wife Patricia of 59 years and two children; Marilynn P. (Dan) Tynan and William E. Boss, III. 

Boss graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a B.A. in 1943.The Indianapolis Star said Boss was the senior team manager for the Notre Dame football team, leaving to fulfill his obligation with the U.S. Navy during World War II. Following his service he returned to be Notre Dame coach Frank Leahy’s personal assistant for the storied 1946 football season.

“Bill Boss is widely remembered for his public role in building demand for the new innovation of electronic color television in the 1950’s and early 60’s, and his legacy runs deep at the Consumer Electronics Association. He was a 20-year volunteer, twice serving as Chairman of the Consumer Electronics Group that became CEA. He led our Video Division and helped to build the foundation that we enjoy today,” Gary Shapiro, CEA President and CEO, stated.

“And while he started in our industry in the late 1940’s, he was also a Navy veteran of World War II and even the senior team manager for the University of Notre Dame football team while in college. Our industry recognized Bill’s long service and groundbreaking marketing work with our highest honor – induction in the CE Hall of Fame in 2002. His example of leadership, careful guidance and marketing prowess will be missed by all who remember his gentle touch,” Shapiro said.

Bill was an industry stalwart for more than four decades,” said Jack Wayman, former CEA president and founder of CEA’s flagship event, the International CES. “He was instrumental in the success of color TV not only for RCA, but the entire industry. Bill contributed significantly to the formation of the International CES, was a champion for free trade and was a major voice behind the industry’s success with the Betamax copyright case before Congress and the Supreme Court.”

“Bill Boss was an industry leader, corporate giant, marketing expert, business executive, but above all was a gentleman. And that’s how he will be remembered. I don’t know if there was a more pleasant man in the history of the CE industry,” said Joe Clayton, CEO, Sirius Satellite Radio, and former CEA chairman and RCA executive.

“Bill was RCA’s ‘Mr. Color TV’ from the first days of city-by-city demonstrations, to the ultimate success of the new category as more networks joined NBC in colorcasting their programming. As a teenager, he saw with his own eyes the 1939 World’s Fair demonstration of RCA’s black-and-white television broadcasts in New York. He was hooked from the beginning. He loved our industry, and he made sure to put something back in to keep it going,” stated former RCA marketing VP Dave Arland.

A mass of Christian burial will be celebrated July 19 in Our Lady of Peace cemetery chapel in Indianapolis at 11 am. Friends are invited to visit to share a personal memory of Bill, sign the guest book or in lieu of flowers memorial contributions maybe made to the American Cancer Society or the Alzheimer’s Association.