A Vet's Story: Bill Daniels

Bill Daniels on the wing of a Grumman F8F Bearcat.

Bill Daniels on the wing of a Grumman F8F Bearcat.

As a pioneer in cable television, Robert W. “Bill” Daniels left a large footprint on the landscape of Colorado business and industry after a distinguished career as a Naval aviator. Bill was born in Greeley, Colorado, in 1920. As a child, Bill and the Daniels family moved to Nebraska and Iowa, eventually settling in New Mexico. Bill excelled at the New Mexico Military Institute and was New Mexico’s Golden Gloves welterweight boxing champion two years in a row.

After high school, he enrolled in the Navy’s V-7 program, fast-tracking his training and allowing him to enter the Navy as a pilot in just 11 months. As a combat pilot, he flew a Grumman F4F Wildcat in the Allied Invasion of North Africa in 1942 and a Chance Vought Corsair in the Solomon Islands area of the Pacific theatre in 1943.

He was awarded the Bronze Star for “heroism, courage, and devotion to duty,” making repeated trips to rescue wounded shipmates after a Japanese kamikaze attack on the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid in November 1944. After war, he returned to private life, only to serve again during the Korean War, piloting a Grumman F9 Panther.

After the Korean War, he became one of the first people to get into the long-distance television broadcast business by setting up a microwave feed of local Denver broadcasting to Casper, Wyoming, where it was distributed through his cable television network. He expanded into the brokering and financing side of the cable television business, with Daniels and Associates becoming one of the largest firms in the field by the mid-1960s. By 1988, Daniels’ cable network was ranked among the top 25 multiple system operators in the United States.

Daniels, with his boxing background, retained a love of sports. Among the many sports interests he pursued, Daniels was co-owner of the Los Angeles Lakers as well as the American Basketball Association’s president. Daniels was very philanthropic, creating the Young American’s Bank and working with the University of Denver to integrate courses in business ethics, personal integrity, and values into the university’s business curriculum; the business school there now carries Daniels’ name. In 1997, Daniels created the Daniels Fund to invest in nonprofits throughout Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming (including the Honor Bell Foundation), as well as provide scholarships to college students in those states.

Bill believed that his wealth was best spent leaving a legacy and making a difference.  He served his country as a young man and later in life made a remarkable contribution to his community with his philanthropy and support of education.