Grantham Grads Career Spans Radio, TV to Teaching Titanic Director James Cameron

By University of Arkansas Grantham February 3, 2022

John Lewis Reeder grew up listening to music of the late 1950s and early 1960s; television didn’t exist in his world yet — it was only radio.

Why did you take that route?

“I loved to listen to my own voice,” Reeder laughs.

In 1963, he attended Grantham to obtain his radio telephone license. “Grantham allowed me to advance in radio,” Reeder says. He worked at five radio stations throughout California before later becoming the chief engineer at the UCLA Department of Theater, Film & Television. He eventually went on to teach television production there as well.

“Radio was cool,” Reeder says. It was evolving and becoming widely popular in the sixties, especially with the emergence of pop tunes — a genre that really took hold.

With some experience working at his high school radio station near Palos Verdes, Calif., and a desire to gain more, he attended Los Angeles City College and studied engineering while working nights at a local radio station.
Reeder needed his radio license, so he tracked down Grantham Electronics via Yellow Pages. He can still recall a small classroom on Sunset Boulevard, near Western Avenue.

“There were 20 or so men in the classroom [who] all had plans for radio back then,” Reeder says. “The teachers drummed everything into my head. It really paved the way for me.”

Reeder says his Grantham experience allowed him to do what he wanted for nearly 10 years. Upon obtaining his license, he started working at radio station KREO in Indio, Calif, for a massive $130 per week. In those days, he was known as “Johnny Lewis”.

He later moved to Santa Ana where in 1965, he began at KWIZ AM & FM. Reeder was the first DJ there to be hired under the “Request Radio” banner.

In 1970, he became the director of operations and engineering for Fullerton College's new television facility. Fullerton started offering television production classes the following year, so Reeder began teaching while working toward his professional teaching credential at UCLA. In just three years, Reeder constructed the first four-camera color mobile-unit for a west coast college or university and gave a young James Cameron — world-renowned director, producer and screenwriter best known for his films Terminator and Titanic — his first glimpse of tv production.

Cameron gave a presentation at UCLA in 2016 where he mentioned Reeder’s production class and recognized it as a great starting point. Reeder said he was quite thrilled to get kudos from the award-winning director.

UCLA hired him on in 1978 as chief engineer, and though his new role didn’t entail teaching, he continued guest lecturing in production classes. He upgraded the UCLA Film & Television Studios three times, did voice-over work for student films and advanced the most major production elements to digital. After 38 years with UCLA, Reeder retired an authority on radio and television production who can proudly say he reached for more, and achieved more.

Read more about UA Grantham's history.

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