Paul Wilbur Klipsch

Paul Wilbur Klipsch, a great inventor, engineer, scientist, pilot and legendary eccentric died May 5, 2002 at the age of 98. Born March 9, 1904 in Elkhart, Indiana to Oscar W. and Minna "Eddy" Klipsch, he was best known for his contributions in revolutionizing the world of audio. From a young age, Klipsch was fascinated with acoustics and radio so much that he built his own radio receiver a year before the first public radio broadcast. He became absorbed in the world of sound, electronics and radio, which followed him the rest of his life. New Mexico A&M, now known as New Mexico State University, became his alma mater in 1926 when he graduated with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering.


It was here that he developed a deeper love and knowledge for music, musicians and musical instruments. He was a member of the championship ROTC rifle team, as well as a charter member of the Mu Phi Pu honorary engineering fraternity. From there he was employed in the field of radio by General Electric and then followed another passion for trains to Tocopilla, Chile from 1928-1931. It was there he supervised the maintenance of seven electric locomotives, but his interest and experimentation in radios never waned. In 1931 upon return to the United States, he entered Stanford University and graduated with a master's degree in electrical engineering, meanwhile continuing research in audio frequency/efficiency. From 1931 through 1941 he was employed in Houston, Texas in the field of oil exploration. During that time, he engineered and developed eight patents in the field of geophysical exploration using various methods. The research on his audio speaker design continued from his home, where he began submitting his first patent for horn design, which initially wasn't accepted.

The year 1941 was one of change. Klipsch was drafted into service during WWII and was stationed at the Southwest Proving Grounds in Hope, Arkansas. His contributions to the defense of this country were in the form of ballistics and photography. He was discharged with a rank of Major and later promoted to Lt. Col. in the reserves in 1953.

It was after WWII that Klipsch decided to commit his life and build loudspeakers. He remained in Hope and continued more research and experimentation, patents and trademarks were applied for and ultimately granted. The name Klipsch and Associates was registered in 1946, although his first employee wasn't hired until 1948. It was in 1950 when Klipsch realized another dream and became a pilot.

Throughout his life, Klipsch had three patents in ballistics, eight in geophysics and twelve in acoustics. To Klipsch, accurate sound reproduction entailed many sacrifices. The development of his Heritage Line of Speakers including the Klipschorn, LaScala, Belle, Cornwall and Heresy are known worldwide for their quality and accuracy that continue to set the standard in the industry for more than 50 years.

The honors and awards bestowed upon Paul W. Klipsch are numerous and varied and in part due to his engineering genius. He was a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., The Audio Engineering Society and The Acoustical Society of America. He was a member of Mu Phi Pi, which through Sigma Tau became Tau Beta Pi, New Mexico Alpha Chapter and Gamma Chapter at Stanford as well as a member in Sigma Xi, an honorary research society. He is listed in Who's Who in Engineering and Who's Who in Electronics. In 1966 he was awarded the New Mexico State University Alumni Award. In 1978 he was awarded the Audio Engineering Society's Silver Medal “for innovative contributions to loudspeaker design and studies of acoustic distortion.” He received an Honorary Doctor of Law Degree from New Mexico State University, in 1981. In 1983, he was inducted into the Audio Hall of Fame. He was named Citizen of the Year in the city of Hope in 1985. 1989 he received the Hi-Fi News Award for Achievement in Audio. 1993,1994. The year 1995 saw the Dedications of the Paul W. Klipsch Lecture Hall, the dedication of the Paul W. Klipsch Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and finally the Klipsch School of Electrical Engineering, all at New Mexico State University. The city of Hope again honored this great man in its dedication of the Paul W. Klipsch Municipal Auditorium June of 1995. In 1997 New Mexico State University dedicated the Klipsch Museum, providing a scholarly and entertaining view of engineering history. Without question, his most distinguished award was received in 1997, when he was inducted and enshrined in the Engineering and Science Hall of Fame for acoustic, ballistic and geophysical contributions and became memorialized with such members as Thomas Edison, Jonas Salk and the Wright Brothers. Each individual is honored for their outstanding achievement and contribution to society. He was recognized as a visionary whose perseverance has improved the quality of life for all humanity. As recent as 2001 he received the Award of Distinction from the Little Rock Arts and Humanities Promotion Commission.

Klipsch was also a man known for his wisdom, integrity, compassion, generosity and wit. He was a 33rd Degree Mason, a member of the Rotary Club since 1946. His philanthropic interests were far reaching. He is a long-time benefactor and supporter of the Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, providing scholarships at the graduate and undergraduate levels, as well as other endowments. Paul W. Klipsch and Mrs. Valerie Klipsch were honored in March of 2002 with the Circle of Excellence-Gold by New Mexico State University for their generous contributions. Other benefactors include the Pueblo Indian Endowment, Wildwood Park for the Performing Arts, Arkansas State University, Little Rock Symphony, the Masons and Eastern Star, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the Arkansas Ballet.

Others have described the man as raw, eccentric, ubiquitous, straightforward, controversial, fascinating, whimsical and extraordinary these grasp but a small yet famous portion of his personality. He admitted that this part of his personality have been played up so he played along “just for the effect.” His well known eccentricities encompass “little black/brown books” with secret code and drawings, the nom de plume, O. Gadfly Hurtz, an endless list of oxymoron's, wearing four watches at all times, and his most famous of all the small yellow buttons with “Bullshit” written in old English script.

Klipsch held infinite philosophies on life that he evolved over his 98 years. He always gave credit to Divine Guidance and invoked it frequently. He lived his life according to the highest moral and ethical standards, both personally and professionally. He achieved fame and fortune without arrogance. It is in a famous quote he loved that truly revealed a man above men. “No one achieves eminence alone. If I have seen farther than Descartes it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.

Klipsch is survived by his loving wife Valerie. They would have celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary on May 28, 2002. He is also survived by one son, Raymond D. Booles and, his wife, Mary of Hot Springs, Arkansas; two grandchildren, Lee R. Booles and, his wife, Alicia of Benton, Arkansas and Shanon Karl Booles of North Little Rock; two great grandchildren, Robert G. Booles and Paul Michael Booles of Robertsdale, Alabama; one cousin Carl Frances Uhrbans of Columbus, Indiana; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.

Below, Valerie Klipsch would like to add this excerpt from the book “Paul Wilbur Klipsch…..The Life…The Legend” which expresses exactly how she feels about Paul.

"Paul Klipsch is my life. Before we met, my life was molded for music and giving knowledge to young people. I was a teacher. Yet, there was a void in my life, and how he has filled it-with love, compassion, and understanding. He has been the perfect gentleman at home and at work and he has shown the highest moral principles always. This intellectual giant has achieved more in a lifetime than can be imagined. How I admire him. He is my life."

-Valerie Klipsch