The Society of Television Engineers

JOHN D. SILVA – Los Angeles Pioneer Television Engineer

John D. Silva, Los Angeles pioneering television engineer, has passed away on Nov 27 at age 92. John Daniel Silva was born in San Diego on February 22, 1920 to parents Guy and Lottie Silva who were in the tuna fishing industry. Brother Grey Silva and sister Lois both pre-deceased him.

John graduated from Point Loma High School in 1939 as valedictorian and attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1939-1940. He transferred to Sanford University and graduated in the Class of 1942 with a BSEE Degree. He then enlisted in the US Navy.

After basic training John attended Harvard & MIT for radar design and operations. He was assigned to the U.S.S. Shea which from March-May, 1945 was operating in the area of Okinawa in the South Pacific. On May 4 while on radar picket duty the Shea was hit by a Japanese plane which after passing through the bridge structure and sonar room exploded on the port side of the ship. With 35 killed and 91 wounded John assisted in rendering medical aid and was awarded the Naval Unit Commendation Ribbon.

After the War while John was assigned to the office of the Chief of Naval Operations he met Brooksie Butler and they were married on April 12, 1946. After Silva was discharged in 1946 as a Navy Lieutenant the married couple moved back to Los Angeles. They had three daughters – Patricia, Karen and Kathleen. Brooksie and John were divorced in 1978.

John joined Paramount Pictures in 1946 who were operating an experimental television station W6XYZ with early television pioneer Klaus Landsberg as station manager and engineer. On January22, 1947 operation commenced as KTLA to become the first commercial television station in Los Angeles, the first station west of the Mississippi and only the seventh station in the United States.

In those early years KTLA was a pioneer in both engineering and television production. They produced shows shown in many US television markets including Time for Beany and the Lawrence Welk Show. As well as technical director for many of these early shows John also directed many shows including Welk from 1952-55.

In 1958 came John’s proudest engineering achievement at KTLA. John envisioned live transmitted pictures from a helicopter. He felt that is was possible to find lighter versions of the normal 2000 pounds of equipment and install all this with crew in a Bell 47-G2 helicopter. On July 4, 1958 the first live pictures were received at KTLA and a private demo was given at the Los Angeles Police Academy to police, fire, sheriff and the press on July 24. On September 15 regular use of the telecopter began on KTLA. In 1970 John was presented a Television Academy EMMY Award for the development of the Telecopter.

In 1975 John Silva received the very prestigious National Association of Broadcasters Engineering Award. The engineering award cited Mr. Silva for: his distinguished professional career, for his many contributions to our nation's knowledge in the field of communications technology, for his untiring efforts to foster advances in the art of broadcasting, and for his pioneering spirit which has so richly enhanced the forward progress of broadcast engineering.


After leaving KTLA John worked for several television engineering companies in sales and system design engineering.


John was a member of the Los Angeles Society of Television Engineers for more than 40 years. He was awarded Life Fellow membership in the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers in 2004.


John met and married Mary Lou Steinkraus-Silva in 1982 who was a contract administrator for David Wolper Productions.


In addition to his wife Mary Lou John is survived by daughters Patricia (Silva) Vawter, Kathleen Silva and Karen (Silva) Samaha and granddaughter Shawna M. Samaha.


Funeral services for John will be on Dec 4 at the Conejo Mountain Funeral Home, 2052 Howard Road, Camarillo, CA 93012. Viewing will be 12 noon and the services will start at 1PM.