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Former Pasco broadcaster-publisher Ray Webb dies at 72

Ray Webb, a former Dade City newsman most remembered for challenging the town's power structure in the early 1970s, died April 15, 2008. He was 72.

Originally from Iowa, Mr. Webb moved to Dade City in 1969 and was a co-owner of WDCF radio until the early 1980s. He also co-owned and operated the Dade City Banner, expanding it from a weekly newspaper to one that published five days a week.

The newspaper's name was changed to Pasco East and later to Pasco News. Mr. Webb sold it in 1973 to an Ohio company. After changing hands several more times, it was shut down in 2006 after circulation dwindled.

"He always did what he felt was right," said Bill Dennis, a former Dade City commissioner who wrote a weekly column for the newspaper. Dennis recalled when he was a young schoolteacher (before assuming elected office), Mr. Webb sent him to check the minutes of the City Commission meeting.

"He sent me to see if there was any kind of coercion between commissioners," he said. "I didn't see any evidence of any. Back then, things were pretty decided before commission meetings."

Among the powerful few who ran the city, Mr. Webb was known as an outside agitator, Dennis said.

"He didn't owe anybody a thing," Dennis said.

When Mr. Webb's business partner, City Commissioner Duane Anderson, and Mayor J. Edward Starling, were accused of conspiring to force out City Manager William F. Pierce, Mr. Webb sided with the mayor and commissioner.

No evidence of wrongdoing was ever found. "It was really just a power struggle," Dennis said.

Later, Mr. Webb was charged with receiving stolen radio equipment in connection with the theft of two machines from a rival radio station. A judge dismissed the charges, saying the statute of limitations had expired.

Mr. Webb called the charges "a pack of lies" and blamed his arrest on his refusal to kowtow to the power structure.

"We're in the middle of a terrible political hassle in the Dade City area, and the status quo will go to any extreme to win," he told the St. Petersburg Times in 1973.

Mr. Webb also was involved in higher education, serving on the committee responsible for the establishment of Pasco-Hernando Community College.

He moved to California in the early 1990s, where he owned and operated an AM radio station and built the KHIZ television station in Victorville, Calif. He returned to Florida in the late 1990s and lived in Brooksville.

He is survived by his wife, Deborah Webb; son, Todd Webb; and daughter, RaeAnn "Dusty" Compton and her husband, Jeff; two grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. His funeral was Monday at Whitfield Funeral Home in Zephyrhills.

Researcher Mary Mellstrom contributed to this report. Lisa Buie can be reached at buie@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4604.

Former Pasco broadcaster-publisher Ray Webb dies at 72 04/21/08 [Last modified: Monday, April 21, 2008 9:07pm]
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