Donald Reed Mathewson’s Radio, Newspaper and Real Estate Legacy in Delaware
The war veteran, radio personality and civic leader wore dozens of other hats throughout his lifetime of service to our country and state.
(page 2 of 4)
His studies would be interrupted, however, by World War II. Mathewson reported to Fort Sheridan in Chicago and from there was shipped not to the military theater but to the Colorado School of Mines to study engineering under military auspices. But as the war dragged on, basic training recommenced, culminating in a front-line position in northern France as a member of the “Black Panther” 66th Infantry.
Though Germany’s surrender brought an end to the war in Europe, Mathewson was not home-free, but instead was shipped to “positions around the Japanese main islands.” The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima—the rough equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT—and another on Nagasaki stilled the fighting in the Pacific under mushroom clouds that shrouded the world’s imagination with a destructive force DuPont and Alfred Mathewson could never have conceived.
The war finally over, Mathewson was treated to three months in London with a special-service unit, where he enjoyed classes at the Central School of Speech Training and Theatre. There he picked up the lost threads of his theatrical ambitions and began dabbling in broadcasting, building on his work as a military radio operator. It was during this time that he was asked to render the written words of President Truman into spoken ones in Royal Albert Hall, part of a benefit for a Memorial Chapel honoring American war dead.
Discharged in 1946, Mathewson headed to Delaware to join his father, who had returned to his birthplace. It was in Newark that family friends introduced Mathewson to Beatrice Matthews, a native Delawarean with her own love of theater. As they courted, Mathewson pursued his acting ambitions, performing in summer stock. He and Matthews married in 1949, joining forces to co-write children’s plays and produce drama locally. Mathewson would eventually become director of the Wilmington Drama League. But it was becoming uncomfortably apparent that an acting life held little hope of an income sufficiently robust to raise a family. So he set into motion a new career, one that drew on his postwar European experience: radio.
At WAMS in Newark, Mathewson made his debut playing big band and polka music, with local news reports punctuating the rhythms. A natural storyteller, Mathewson’s voice conveyed a soothing, fireside-chatty warmth. Before long he was news and sports director for the station, and ultimately president of the Wilmington Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association.