Iowa History Daily: On October 3, 1954: Marshal J. (Alexander “Jay” Kotkis Jr.) first raced toward the camera on his trusty golden Palomino to invite Iowa’s children into his tack room for an hour of cartoons and cowboy antics. The popular afternoon television program rain on Iowa’s airwaves for seven years before the 6’6” tall cowboy took his Marshall J. Show west to California.
Cued up by the theme “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” Marshal J. brought his bonafide cowboy credentials to the small screen for after school viewing. Born in St. Louis, Jay enrolled at St. Louis University before joining the Army during World War II. Servinging with the 66th Division on the SS Leopoldville, Jay survived the Battle of Bulge. Following the war, he returned and played briefly for the NFL’s Chicago Cardinals and worked as a rodeo cowboy before embarking on a career in show business.
Moving to Cedar Rapids, he took a job in sportscasting at KPIG Radio only to find himself cut when the station switched formats. Switching to television as two new stations arrived in Cedar Rapids, KCRI (later KCRG) and WMT, Jay transformed into Marshall J, a rootin-tootin cowboy with a trusty sidekick Dalmatian named Rowdy. Alexander’s initial job at WMT also tasked him with serving as a weatherman.
Known for his natural, homespun charm, Marshall J won over children of all ages with rope tricks and bonafide cowboy stories from his rodeo days. The show featured outdoor skills including taking care of animals, camping, and firearm safety in addition to cartoons. While the show’s popularity grew, so did Marshall J’s fame, eventually leading him to take his talents west when a station in San Francisco offered a new home for his show. Although his time on Iowa’s airwaves proved brief, Marshall J’s memory lives on in the hearts of Iowans. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar