Kenneth R. Giddens, VOA’s 13th director, is the longest-serving director in Voice of America’s history, having served under Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter. Prior to his work in radio, Giddens worked as an architect, a Navy Reserve lieutenant, and founder of Giddens & Rester, a small theater chain with outlets in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi. He later founded and ran two radio stations and a television station all named with his initials – WKRG, WKRG-TV, and WKRG-TV.
Under Giddens’ direction, VOA enhanced its credibility through its straightforward reporting of two events that traumatized the nation – the war in Vietnam and the constitutional crisis posed by Watergate. “It is particularly important for the V.O.A,” he said, “to have an image and reputation of telling the truth.” VOA’s reporting not only drew praise from the American press, but – more importantly – from listeners in every part of the world. Tens of thousands wrote to express their admiration for VOA’s comprehensive and objective coverage. On July 12, 1976, a week after America’s bicentennial, President Ford signed the VOA Charter into law. Another notable accomplishment during Director Giddens’ tenure was VOA reaching a record-breaking audience of 615 million listeners during Neil Armstrong’s historic moon walk.
Giddens returned to public service in 1985, briefly serving as the director of Radio Martí, a sister broadcaster of VOA within the Broadcasting Board of Governors.