Extraordinary and meaningful lives are not always ones found in the headlines. Sometimes, they are lives lived through persistent service to others. An able administrator, Frank Pace was able to organize anything from the army to educational television, providing invaluable service to the nation.
Frank Pace, Jr., was born in Little Rock on July 5, 1912. The family did not stay in Arkansas long and soon moved to Pennsylvania. He received a private school education before attending Princeton University. He graduated from Harvard University Law School in 1936.
After he received his law degree, Pace returned to Arkansas, serving as a deputy prosecutor. In 1938, he became a lawyer with the state revenue department. With the beginning of World War II, he served with the army’s Air Transport Command, leaving the service as a major in 1945. By 1948, he was serving as assistant director of the Bureau of the Budget, helping to organize a $3 billion surplus for the federal government. Pace was promoted to director of the bureau in 1949.
In April 1950, President Harry Truman appointed him as the third Secretary of the Army. The Secretary of the Army position was created in 1947 as part of a reorganization of the nation’s armed forces. In this position, Pace was the chief executive of the army, answering to the Secretary of Defense and the president.
He faced a great test just two months into his new position. In June, North Korea attacked South Korea without warning. Pace had to help organize army forces quickly and respond to the attack, which many Americans believed was a prelude to World War III. The Korean War left 33,000 Americans dead in what bogged down into a stalemate, but America and its allies were able to preserve South Korean independence.
His tenure ended with the close of the Truman administration on January 20, 1953. Afterward, Pace became an executive with General Dynamics, a military contractor. He served as vice-president, president, and Chief Executive Officer. He served with General Dynamics until 1962.
However, in 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Pace to a secret administrative panel. With the Cold War threatening the outbreak of a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union, the Eisenhower administration was making preparations for the worst. In case of such an apocalyptic disaster and the total breakdown of civil government, Eisenhower appointed a number of federal officials and industry leaders to take charge of aspects of the economy, communications, and infrastructure to keep it functioning. Pace was appointed to lead the Emergency Transport Agency. The existence of this group, called the Eisenhower Ten, was classified top secret and not revealed for years.
In 1968, after President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation creating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, he appointed Pace to be the organization’s first president. As president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Pace was responsible for organizing television and radio stations to air educational and cultural programs to benefit the public.
He began talking with private groups to establish public broadcasting stations across the country and organized existing educational stations into the Public Broadcasting Service. With the establishment of PBS in 1969, public broadcasting stations soon began producing programming, such as the classic PBS children’s television program, Sesame Street, later that year. In 1970, Pace took the project to radio, organizing National Public Radio, which continues to serve public broadcasting stations across the nation. Pace stepped down from his position in 1972.
Pace continued to work with charities, civic organizations, and presidential commissions for years afterward, eventually serving nine presidents. He died suddenly in January 1988 at the age of 75. After his death, the army honored his memory by establishing the Pace Award, designed to honor both a civilian employee and an active-duty military member for outstanding technical, scientific, or executive achievements in a given year.