Frank Batten

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Frank Batten
FrankBatten TWCLaunch.png
Frank Batten speaking at the National Cable Television Association annual convention on May 2, 1982, for the launch of The Weather Channel
Born(1927-02-11)February 11, 1927
Norfolk, Virginia
DiedSeptember 10, 2009(2009-09-10) (aged 82)
EducationUniversity of Virginia
Harvard (MBA)
Occupation(s)Chairman and CEO, Landmark Communications
Chairman, Associated Press (1982-1987)
Years active1954–1998
Known forCo-founder of The Weather Channel

Frank Batten, Sr. (February 11, 1927 – September 10, 2009) was an American media mogul who is most notable for his role as co-founder of The Weather Channel. He was the chairman and CEO of the network's first parent company, Landmark Communications, which would own The Weather Channel until its sale in 2008. Additionally, he was the chairman of the Associated Press from 1982 to 1987.

Early life

Frank Batten was born on February 11, 1927, to Frank Batten, an auditor at Virginia National Bank, and Dorothy Martin Batten, the sister of Fay Slover, wife of the media mogul Samuel L. Slover.[1] Only a year after the younger Batten's birth, on March 31, 1928, his father died of lobar pneumonia. The younger Batten himself suffered from asthma as a child and often required treatment. In the aftermath of her husband's death, Dorothy and her son moved in with the Slovers, who themselves were childless.[1] There, Batten enjoyed a well-off childhood during the peak of the Great Depression, a fact that he was very conscious of and made efforts to hide. Nonetheless, Batten was close to Samuel, his uncle, and through him, he learned a great deal about the ins and outs of the media business world.[1] Batten later said of Slover, "He was the biggest influence on my life. It was not so much his style but his values that influenced me. He had a lot of simple but very strong values - about truthfulness, the way you deal with people, being straightforward."[2] Despite his well-off status and his uncle's influence, the young Batten became a troublemaker and prankster in and out of school, along with his group of older friends; Batten would be expelled from three schools as a result. Notable incidents included he and his friends setting fire to a field, vandalizing a vacant mansion, and derailing trolley cars, in addition to his truancy from school on multiple occasions.[1] By this time, he was in the ninth grade and his guardians were preparing to send him to another school in the aftermath of Batten's last expulsion. Batten himself later said of the behavior, "I was part of a gang that was fond of pranks, some of which would horrify me if they'd been done by my children."[2]


Culver Military School years

Yearbook portrait of Frank Batten from Culver Military School in 1945
Frank Batten at Culver Military School, 1945

Frank Batten's fascination at the time of the beginning of his teenage years was attending Culver Military School, the nation's largest military school, which was fueled by the 1939 film The Spirit of Culver. With the blessing of his uncle, Batten visited the campus for eight weeks in the summer of 1940, during which time his behavior, reading abilities, and well-being improved significantly. He was admitted there in the fall of that year, but began to have difficulties transitioning to the new environment, most especially academically, turning out below-average grades. Batten himself said that he was simply uninterested and without focus, alongside having little self-confidence.[1] Later, in May 1941, the fourteen-year-old Batten saw himself kicked out of Culver until the fall semester for having visited a brothel. When he returned, his grades remained average to poor, but he came under the influence of a student, Lee Winchester, and Mike Carpenter, Culver's boxing, track, and cross-country coach, who both convinced Batten to branch out and who were major influences on his change in attitude and self-assuredness. At the same time, that year, Batten had to repeat a grade and now had the advantage of not being one of the youngest in his classes. These factors added together to aid Batten in striving to become a better version of himself. By the following year, he had improved his grades significantly and had improved at cross-country, which Batten had joined under Carpenter's influence.[1] In his senior year, Batten was a model student, gifted leader, and a member of various campus organizations, in addition to his participation in track, cross-country, and boxing. He was selected as one of only a handful of company commanders that year, and later led his infantry company into winning the prestigious Austin Trophy–awarded to the best company–prior to graduating in June 1945.[1]

Ultimately, Batten's experience at Culver shaped him into the leader he would soon become. Culver was, to Batten, the school that was closest to his heart, and he would later say of his experience, "If I had not been motivated by several other students to want to be a leader, and if I had not stuck my neck out to seek leadership, I would not have been put in a position to experience leadership.”[1]


Batten's son, Frank Batten, Jr., replaced him in his capacity as chairman of Landmark Communications on January 1, 1998.[1]

Later life

When Batten, Jr. went through with the sale of The Weather Channel in 2009, Batten, Sr. admitted he was regretful of the decision, but was understanding:

I understand Frank's rationale. It's just very sad for me because it's meant more than anything else in my life... I might have waited until too late. Why speculate? It's really irrelevant. I don't by that mean I'm opposed. Under the circumstances, I think he's doing the right thing. It's very hard for me to think about it. I guess I could say time will tell... I'm not running things, and if the management is convinced of it, it's likely to be the right decision.

— Frank Batten, 2009[3]


Batten died on September 10, 2009, in Norfolk, Virginia. According to Richard F. Barry III, Vice Chairman of Landmark at the time, the death came after a prolonged period of illness. He was buried in the Christ and Saint Lukes Episcopal Church Columbarium in Norfolk.

Personal life

Batten never explicitly explained his religious views, arguing that his beliefs were so disorganized that they were hard to explain to "rational" people. Nonetheless, when he was ill in 2001, he was comforted by his son reading the Psalms and gospels at his bedside.[1]

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Sage, Connie (2011). Frank Batten: The Untold Story of the Founder of The Weather Channel. Charlottesville, Virginia: University of Virginia Press. ISBN 978-0-8139-3155-5.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Swift, Earl (September 10, 2009). "Frank Batten Sr., retired Landmark chairman, dies at 82". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved January 23, 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. Sage, Connie (2011). Frank Batten: The Untold Story of the Founder of The Weather Channel. Charlottesville, Virginia: University of Virginia Press. ISBN 978-0-8139-3155-5.