Mac—MacHenry Tichenor, Sr.—was standing outside his car, looking up at the plane as it glided down the runway. In just a few minutes, he was sitting across from me, asking rapid-fire questions about work, my family, and when lunch was going to be served. It was good to see him.
“Gracie, you know I told Carlos, if he would just understand that Mexico wants a football team, we could get to the next step.” I looked up and nodded. “So that’s what we’re going to do this trip.” He could tell I was a little confused. “We’re going to make him make us have to prove it.”
I was always amazed at how Mac took an enormously complicated process and made it sound as easy as boiling water. He’d probably say it’s because he was a Texan. Whatever the reason, I found the simplicity reassuring. I remembered how I’d met Mac so many years ago.
It was 1989 when I first spoke to Mac. He was Chairman of the Board at Tichenor Media Systems in Dallas, Texas, and I was a mother of two working for Focus on The Family in Pomona, California. Tichenor Media Systems had just purchased a conglomerate of Latino-focused radio stations. His name had stuck out in the article because he, seemingly at random, had recently donated $10,000 to Focus on The Family with a personal check.
The first time I spoke with Mac, I thanked him for his recent gift. I was in my twenties, a new fundraiser at Focus on The Family with big ideas and tons of ambition. I was working on a new project: bringing Focus’s message to the Latino community. This was uncharted territory for Focus, and many saw it as risky, steering away from what was working well.
So you might say I had an ulterior motive when I called Mac to thank him. I saw an opportunity to speak with someone who could verify my belief that radio was the medium that would best reach my people.
That first day, when I called Mac to thank him for his donation to Focus on The Family, I was nervous. After a few minutes, he asked me why I had really called. His question was so sincere that I had to tell him the truth. I wanted to talk to him about radio, specifically Latino radio.
Our initial conversation lasted over an hour. Mac knew the statistics and the marketplace like the back of his hand. He had access to the fastest-growing demographic in the country. I told him Focus on The Family wanted to do a version of Dr. Dobson’s hit radio show in Spanish. Before we ended our call, he told me he wanted in. He put me back through to his assistant so I could overnight our demo tapes to him. That was the start of a relationship and mentorship that would span across two marriages, four bosses, and countless lessons learned.