John S. Hendricks (1952- ) is a cable television pioneer, who was born in Matewan, Mingo County. He was introduced to early cable systems developed by relatives to improve television reception in the hilly terrain of southern West Virginia.
His family moved to Huntsville, Alabama, when Hendricks was six years old. He grew up in two places – attending school in Alabama, while spending summers working in West Virginia. He earned a B.A. in History in 1973 from the University of Alabama, Huntsville, which presented him with an honorary doctorate in 1991. Hendricks founded the Discovery Channel, the first cable network in the United States designed to provide high-quality documentary programming, which aired for the first time on June 17, 1985. Hendricks’ company, Discover Communications, later expanded operations to 160 countries, with more than 1 billion subscribers. In 2004, company properties included the Learning Channel, Animal Planet, Travel Channel, Discovery Health Channel, and Discovery Kids networks. In 1999, Hendricks formed the short-lived Women’s United Soccer Association.
Hendricks has earned several awards for his work in the communications field. He was honored with an Emmy® award in 2000 and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences highest honor, the Governors Award, for conceiving the Learning Channel series Great Books. He was the first corporate leader to receive the National Education Association’s Friend of Education award.