Cable industry pioneer Robert Rosencrans, perhaps the essential player in the formation of C-SPAN who served as the network’s first board chairman and continued to work for it through four subsequent decades, died Wednesday in Greenwich, Connecticut of complications stemming from a recent stroke. He was 89.

Image: C-SPAN
Image: C-SPAN
Image: C-SPAN

Serving as the president of the now-defunct UA-Columbia Cable in the late 1970s, Rosencrans along with his business partner Ken Gunter were the first cable operators to back C-CPAN founder Brian Lamb’s concept of a nonprofit cable network devoted to televising the workings of the U.S. congress. After hearing Lamb’s pitch, Rosencrans provided the network’s initial funding when he wrote a check for $25,000 on the spot. He became a huge proponent of the new network and was instrumental in convincing other cable executives do likewise, and the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network launched on March 19, 1979 in only 3.5 million homes.

“He never wanted any personal credit for it, but if it hadn’t been for Bob Rosencrans, there probably wouldn’t be a C-SPAN,” said Lamb in a statement released Thursday. “Bob was a tremendous human being.”

Rosencrans is survived by his wife of 59 years, Marjorie and their four children. He remained C-SPAN’s chairman emeritus until the end of his life.