Beginning his career as in 1930, Knox Manning had great success as a film narrator and on radio as an announcer, actor, commentator, newscaster and commercial voice performer. His talents earned him the description “one of radio’s most successful salesmen” in a 1949 advertisement in Broadcasting magazine. He narrated the U.S. government short film Hitler Lives?, which won the Academy Award for the Best Documentary (Short Subject) of 1945.
During World War II, he spent three years in the U.S. Army Air Forces, first stateside in 1942 as a captain with its First Motion Picture Unit — which numbered among its officers Lt. Col Jack Warner and 2nd Lt. Ronald Reagan — and 10 months as the commander of the Air Forces’ first overseas Combat Camera Unit, attaining the rank of major. Soon after his discharge, in September 1945, Radio Life profiled him when he was doing a twice-daily Knox Manning Reports radio broadcast as a newscaster-commentator from Los Angeles’ CBS station KNX. He explained he felt a responsibility to his listeners, particularly after his life-shaping experiences in the war: “One must try as best as he can to put across the ideals he holds close. On my program, I try to do all I can to promote racial and religious tolerance and to help in creating a greater understanding among the different peoples of the world. Radio has a terrific responsibility. Radio can do so much to cement relations among the nations.” He also doubted that the broadcast world’s newest up-and-coming player, television, would ever prove “as universally popular as people are inclined to believe.”
He would soon learn how wrong he was about TV. His entire AFRA national presidency of 1950 — 1952 was fated to fall right in the middle of a fierce jurisdictional struggle over which organization would represent actors in television. To try and work it out, the Associated Actors and Artistes of America — the parent organization of performer unions including Actors’ Equity, AFTRA and Screen Actors Guild — created a trusteeship called Television Authority (TVA) in 1949, which resulted an acrimonious battle over how the jurisdiction would be handled. Manning was then president of AFRA’s Los Angeles Local and became among the 10 AFRA National Board members elected to represent AFRA on the TVA board of directors.
After NLRB elections over whether Screen Actors Guild or Television Authority would serve as bargaining agent for actors in television film, SAG won in February 1952. Manning completed his AFRA presidency in August of that year, succeeded by radio and TV actor Alan Bunce, then president of the AFRA New York Local. The following month, AFRA merged with Television Authority, getting TVA’s live TV jurisdiction and creating AFTRA — the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.