The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Skip Finley

Broadcast chief executive Skip Finley was born on July 23, 1948 in Ann Arbor, Michigan to Ewell W. Finley and Millie Finley. He attended Malverne High School in Long Island, New York, and later studied at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.

Finley obtained his first position as a floor manager at WHDH-TV in Boston in 1971, then as an assistant director and producer at Boston’s WSBK-TV. In 1972, he was recruited to the sales department at Boston’s WRKO-AM radio station, where he helped develop the RAB radio sales training course. In 1973, he joined Humphrey Browning MacDougall advertising agency’s media department as an account manager, where he marketed products for clients like Lionel Trains, Dutch Boy Paint and the Salada Tea Company. In 1974, he joined Sheridan Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio Division as a sales manager at WAMO AM-FM radio station in Pittsburgh, and was later promoted to the division’s vice president in 1977. In 1978, he worked as Eastern Sales Manager for Sheridan Broadcasting Networks, and was later promoted to president of the network in 1981. In 1982, he founded Albimar Communications, through which he owned and managed the popular black radio station, WKYS-FM/Washington, D.C. In 1988, he joined Carter Broadcast Group, Inc., the nation’s oldest black-owned radio station company, as the executive vice president of the board of directors. In 1995, he was recruited as CEO of American Urban Radio Networks, where he conceived of The Light , a 24-hour syndicated black gospel radio station format. Finley remained at American Urban Radio Networks until his retirement to Martha’s Vineyard in 1998.

From 2001 until 2011, Finley served as the vice chairman of the board of directors at Inner City Broadcasting Corporation. In 2012, he joined the Vineyard Gazette Media Group as director of sales and marketing, and also wrote the Vineyard Gazette’s weekly Oak Bluffs Town Column until 2017. In 2015, Finley founded M&M Community Development, Inc., a nonprofit to educate local high school students on professional radio station management and operation.

Finley was the recipient of Radio Ink Magazine’s Radio Wayne Award for Best Overall Broadcaster in 1994, American Urban Radio Network’s Urban Knight Hall of Fame Award and the Ward L. Quall Leadership Award from the Broadcaster’s Foundation of America in 2012.

Skip Finley was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 23, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.139

Sex

Male

Interview Date

08/23/2017 |and| 8/22/2018

Last Name

Finley

Maker Category
Organizations
First Name

Skip

Birth City, State, Country

Ann Arbor

HM ID

FIN05

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Birth Date

7/23/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Martha's Vineyard

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Corn Chex

Short Description

Broadcast chief executive Skip Finley (1948- ) was the founder of Albimar Communications, and served as president of Sheridan Broadcasting Networks, American Urban Radio Networks, and on the executive boards of Inner City Broadcasting Corporation and Carter Broadcast Group.

Favorite Color

Black

Gregory Davis

Broadcasting CEO Gregory Davis was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas in 1948. He received his B.A. degree in biology from Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee. After serving in the United States Army, he returned to school and earned his master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University.

Davis then began a twelve-year television career that took him to a number of major cities, including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Detroit. From 1982 to 1986, he worked as a National/Local Sales Manager of Multimedia Broadcasting for WLW-TV in Cincinnati, Ohio. He began his company, Davis Broadcasting Inc., in 1986, when he acquired radio stations in Columbus and Augusta, Georgia. He later purchased stations in Macon, Columbus, and Atlanta, Georgia, as well as in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2000, Davis sold the radio stations in Charlotte and Augusta to focus on building his operations in Columbus. Davis Broadcasting Inc. comprises ten radio stations based in Columbus and Atlanta, Georgia: WFXE-FM, WEAM-FM, WIOL-FM, WIOL-AM, WOKS-AM and WKZJ-FM in Columbus, and WCHK-FM (La Mega), WCHK-AM, WLKQ-FM (La Raza), and WNSY-FM in Atlanta. Its hip-hop and R&B station, WFXE-FM (Foxie 105), has been rated the number one radio station in the Columbus market since 1993. In 2004, La Raza became Atlanta's first Spanish language FM radio station. These ten stations offer a variety of music genres, including urban contemporary, gospel contemporary, Spanish language programming, and sports.

In addition to operating several radio stations, Davis Broadcasting Inc. has hosted many annual philanthropic events. These include the Women’s Empowerment Luncheon, held each March for National Women’s History Month, Family Day in the Parks, and the Needy Children's Christmas party, which provides three to four thousand needy children with gifts every Christmas. Davis also serves his community by participating on boards both locally and nationally. These include the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, Columbus Regional Hospital, United Way, Better Business Bureau, First Union Bank, and First Citizen Bank of North Carolina. He has also served on the board for the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, the Georgia Association of Broadcasters, and the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters.

Davis and his wife Cheryl reside in Columbus, Georgia. They have three grown children, Geniece, Michelle, and Greg, Jr.

Gregory Davis was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 20, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.056

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/20/2014

Last Name

Davis

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

A.

Organizations
Schools

St. John's HeadStart Center

St. Anne's Academy

Lane College

University of Arkansas at Fort Smith

Eastern Michigan University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Gregory

Birth City, State, Country

Fort Smith

HM ID

DAV31

Favorite Season

Christmas time

State

Arkansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hilton Head, South Carolina

Favorite Quote

What You Put In is What You Get Out

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

9/24/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Barbecue

Short Description

Broadcast chief executive Gregory Davis (1948 - ) is the founder of Davis Broadcasting Inc., which runs ten radio stations based in Columbus and Atlanta, Georgia. These stations include WFXE-FM, or Foxie 105, the number one radio station in the Columbus market since 1993.

Employment

Flint Board of Education

London Central High School

WJRT-TV Pool Broadcasting

Field Communication WKBD-TV

ABC -Television WXYZ-TV

ABC - National Sales

MultiMedia-TV

Davis Broadcasting

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:2581,49:18254,232:31216,465:39718,648:40264,656:40576,661:41824,684:55138,851:63100,922:65340,1199:101798,1572:115570,1736:127590,2007:132015,2096:145938,2313:146270,2331:159596,2490:171264,2708:183591,2873:188838,2962:206074,3265:227280,3583:269881,4166:270497,4176:299120,4579:300298,4605:302300,4616$0,0:4284,51:13872,229:14168,234:14464,239:26915,376:40458,586:41052,598:42768,625:53940,780:56540,790:58988,834:59564,849:59852,857:61796,900:65942,932:72403,1053:76024,1149:82485,1312:83053,1321:83905,1335:92228,1379:93724,1402:104988,1586:112652,1682:113108,1689:117668,1776:119720,1820:120936,1842:129044,1942:132014,1994:132938,2027:133202,2032:141544,2109:152216,2206:159075,2325:159660,2335:160635,2359:161675,2379:162260,2390:174859,2488:175732,2498:194492,2734:194862,2740:215852,2961:216282,2967:216798,3059:222686,3102:226986,3188:230640,3211:231288,3268:247940,3455:249540,3482:260678,3634:268764,3710:271190,3742
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Gregory Davis's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Gregory Davis lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Gregory Davis describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Gregory Davis describes his mother's upbringing in Fort Smith, Arkansas and her education at Arkansas AM&N College in Pine Bluff

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Gregory Davis describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Gregory Davis talks about his paternal grandparents' jobs

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Gregory Davis remembers helping his father find a job at the Colonial Baking Company in Fort Smith, Arkansas

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Gregory Davis recounts how his parents met, his mother's career, and his father's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Gregory Davis talks about his mother's personality and about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Gregory Davis describes his childhood neighborhood in Fort Smith, Arkansas

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Gregory Davis talks about the history of Fort Smith, Arkansas and his religious upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Gregory Davis describes his experience at St. John's Elementary School in Fort Smith, Arkansas

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Gregory Davis recalls listening to radio and watching television growing up in Fort Smith, Arkansas

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Gregory Davis talks about segregation in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and his maternal grandfather

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Gregory Davis talks about integrating St. Anne's High School in Fort Smith, Arkansas

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Gregory Davis his experience as the first African American on the football team at St. Anne's High School in Fort Smith, Arkansas

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Gregory Davis recounts his experience of racial discrimination during his football career at St. Anne's High School in Fort Smith, Arkansas

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Gregory Davis describes his academic and athletic performance at St. Anne's High School in Fort Smith, Arkansas

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Gregory Davis talks about his difficulties getting an athletic scholarship to college due to racial discrimination

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Gregory Davis recounts his decision to attend Westark Junior College in Fort Smith, Arkansas and then Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Gregory Davis talks about his experience at Westark Junior College in Fort Smith, Arkansas and Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Gregory Davis describes undergraduate years at Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Gregory Davis describes moving to Flint, Michigan to work as a community school director

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Gregory Davis recalls being drafted into the U.S. Military during the Vietnam War

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Gregory Davis talks about the importance of dialogue in business, and his father

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Gregory Davis describes experiencing racial discrimination in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Gregory Davis describes his U.S. Army service in Europe and teaching at United States Army Dependent Schools in London, England

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Gregory Davis talks about pursuing a graduate degree in education from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Gregory Davis talks about his first job in television at Flint, Michigan's WJRT-TV, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Gregory Davis talks about his first job in television at Flint, Michigan's WJRT-TV, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Gregory Davis recalls how he met his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Gregory Davis talks about moving from Flint, Michigan to Detroit, Michigan where he worked at WXYZ-TV

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Gregory Davis recalls working as a national spot salesman for ABC and moving to the NBC affiliate in Cincinnati, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Gregory Davis talks about selling advertising for Cincinnati, Ohio's NBC affiliate and deciding to buy his own station

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Gregory Davis talks about how he started Davis Broadcasting, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Gregory Davis talks about how he started Davis Broadcasting, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Gregory Davis describes the early years of Davis Broadcasting

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Gregory Davis talks about the challenges of selling advertising for an African-American radio station

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Gregory Davis describes the demographics of his radio stations

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

7$3

DATitle
Gregory Davis his experience as the first African American on the football team at St. Anne's High School in Fort Smith, Arkansas
Gregory Davis talks about how he started Davis Broadcasting, pt. 1
Transcript
So were you able to integrate without, you know, incident, nobody calling you names and--$$Oh no--oh no.$$Okay.$$(Laughter) No, Larry. It's--those are--those are moments that I think back and our first--my first experience in real racial prejudice is when I first went out to play football. I called up the coach and asked him if my mother [Rizetta Theola Davis]--they decided we're gonna go--we were gonna go to St. Anne's, and I wanted to play football. And I called up the coach on my own, unbeknownst to my mother and father [Fred Davis, Jr.]--that I just wanna make sure I can play football, 'cause I always wanted to play football for the Lincoln High School Pirates. And I called him up and I said Coach--I says my name is Greg Davis. I said I'm at St. John's. I says I'm, I'm planning to come to St. Anne's next week--next year--and I'd like to play football, and I wanted to talk to someone about that. He said if you make the team, you can play, goodbye.$$Wow, he was really in--interested in you, right?$$Yeah. So, I went out, and the very first time my mother dropped me off. She went out to the school and when I first came out there I got out of the car. I looked back and I could see tears in my mom's eyes. And, and I didn't--I didn't want her to be worried. I said mother, I'm fine. I walked out--you didn't know a soul. You walked out there, and I knew the colors were blue and white. And they said you wear blue and white shorts and pants. Well, Lincoln High School's [Fort Smith, Arkansas] colors was blue and white too. Black--at the black high school, they wore blue pants and white shirts. And I went up to St. Anne's, I thought that--I came out there with my blue pants and white shirt, what I always knew. And they had just the opposite; they had white shorts and blue shirts. So I came out of the very first time, and introduced myself. No one said a word.$$Now this is before formal school starts, right, football practice?$$This is--this is in August before school even--$$Yeah, okay.$$--starts so you didn't know anyone.$$All right, so this your first exposure to this school.$$Remind me so much of watching the movie '42.' I mean it was almost a peril of my life, when I walked in, how they just stopped and got quiet; nobody talked; and you walked--you didn't know what to say, what to go--where to go. And finally I introduced myself, and they didn't--no one said hello or nothing. And one guy says--I said my name is Greg Davis. He says my name is Greg Avelos (ph.). I said well, Greg, we gotta--got the same name. So I'm trying to think about what my dad would do, 'cause my dad could talk to anybody. And we got to talking, and that's how after that we got to be close. And other people began to talk. But it was very, very difficult. And, and I got out there, and they would run sprints. And I'd take off running, and I'd be ahead of everybody, and then I would slow because I thought they was looking at you--why you running so fast, you know, that type of thing, but very good experience. Life went on to show me that--we went on and played football, and be honest with you, we had one of the best careers that I could have ever asked for in high school. We never lost a football game in high school.$$Now what position did you play?$$We played both ways. We played--I played offensive left halfback, and defensive safety, and I did kickoffs and kickoff returns.$$Okay.$$So we, we kind of went both ways.$$All right, so, so didn't lose a game. Were, were there any other black players in your league?$$Not at that time. Later on my brother and them came through two years later, but there was nobody else other--on--well, we played schools around the state. And just--not just in Fort Smith. We would go to Alma, Arkansas, Charleston, Arkansas, and different once, cause we were a Catholic parochial school, and we had to play schools from there. But we--$$So did your team embrace you--I mean--you know?$$Didn't embrace me initially, but after the--after we kind of established ourselves and you know played sports, and began to catch, and run, and play, and they began to open up. But they were very reluctant initially, 'cause they not--never been around blacks. But it's, it's amazing how four years make a difference. My--after my fourth year, I was elected senior captain of the team, and that was elected by your peers. So it kind of shows you how transition took place, and really made it better for my brother [Fred Davis, III] who played on the football team two years later--he was two years younger--and others after that.$Now, let's, let's tell people about the incentives that the FCC [Federal Communications Commission], you know--$$Right.$$--granted to owners. Tell us about that.$$They call it certificate. At this time, there was a certificate that they would provide owners who owned--at this time, it was majority the mino--the majority of the stations were owned by non-minorities by the white community. And they gave them a certificate that if you sold it to a minority, you would get a tax incentive. You would get a percentage back, and it was a tax incentive where you would not have to pay taxes on so many of the dollars if you sold it to a minority. So, but the minorities' biggest thrust was trying to come up with the initial cash in order to get in. The, the cost of entry was extremely difficult. It was 10 to 20 percent at that time trying to come up with the monies to buy those stations.$$So this was--this is an attempt to encourage white business to sell to blacks, because they'd actually make money.$$Oh, it was economics.$$It, it was a way that you could make more money selling these stations than if you sold them to a white person.$$That's correct. It's a called a tax certificate.$$Yeah.$$And that's what they provided to the FCC, and they would get a rebate for selling to minor--so it was an economic incentive for them to sell to minorities.$$Okay. I guess this works better than moral appeal to the--$$Yes, than the moral appeal and plus it was an incentive for them to get cash money.$$Yes, yes. So, so you looked--you--was it hard to get the financing to--was that the biggest struggle, to get the financing to initially buy it.$$I was--partly, yes. It's always difficult. I mean and not partly. It was yes. That was the most difficult piece, to find a bank that would loan you the kind of money to get into the business, and especially when it was millions of dollars. And you didn't have the wherewithal; you didn't have the mothers and the fathers, and people that had the back and support in most cases to get there. And most institutions--financial institutions--were not real comfortable in loaning money to minorities anyway. But I started in 1982, and it took four years for me to finally get a chance to buy a TV station, the TV station that identified, that was up for sale, that's something that we could afford to purchase was an NBC station in Columbus, Georgia.$$Now how--so it's NBC's station in Columbus, Georgia. But--now who, who--what financial institutions or you know--well, did--I mean who loaned you money?$$That's a good question. It was so difficult. And I started my process of trying to find out who would loan the money. It took me four years, and I went to at least a dozen institutions. And they would all--and they all said no. I had made a decision that I was gonna--whenever they said no, I would write down why they told me no. It could be you don't have any experience; it could be you don't have enough down--cap--down--upfront capital. Whatever it may be, I, I wrote 'em down. And always said to the person I don't mind you telling me no, but just tell me why you're telling me no. And I began to go back and correct those concerns that they had, so when I go to the next one, I would fix that one. When I go to the next institution, I'd fix those. So when I got down to--after, again, over eleven to twelve institutions saying no, I knew that there as one institution that might say yes, that was my best chance. But I had corrected all of those concerns that the banks had. And I got to this final institution out of Cleveland [Ohio], a bank called Ameritrust Bank. And I went to them, and they said yes, and I borrowed the money to start my first company.

Don Cornwell

Broadcast executive and businessman W. Don Cornwell was born in Cushing, Oklahoma on January 17, 1948. Cornwell moved with his family to Tacoma, Washington, where he attended Stadium High School. After graduating from Stadium, Cornwell enrolled at Occidental College in Los Angeles in 1965. Four years later, he graduated with his B.A. degree in political science. Cornwell then graduated from Harvard Business School with his M.B.A. degree in 1971.

Cornwell was first hired by Goldman, Sachs & Co. in New York in 1971. By 1980, he was promoted to chief operating officer of the Goldman Sachs’ corporate finance department of the investment banking division. In 1988, Cornwell left the securities firm to found Granite Broadcasting Corporation. In his twenty-one years as the company’s chairman and chief executive officer, the corporation purchased fifteen television stations to become the largest African American-controlled television broadcast company in America. At its peak, Granite Broadcasting generated $169 million in revenue. From 1991 through 2006, Granite was publicly owned with common stock listed on NASDAQ and several issues of debt registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Granite Broadcasting Corporation filed for voluntary reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in December 2006 and emerged from its restructuring in June 2007. Cornwell stepped down as the company chairman and CEO in 2009.

Cornwell has received numerous honors and corporation directorships throughout his career including serving on the boards of Pfizer, Inc., Avon Products, Inc., American International Group, Inc. and CVS-Caremark Corporation. He is a trustee of Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York. Cornwell was formerly on the board of directors of the Wallace Foundation, the Hershey Trust Company and Milton Hershey School, the New York University Medical Center and the Telecommunications Development Fund. Cornwell’s company, Granite Broadcasting, was named Company of the Year by Black Enterprise. In 1996, he was honored as the Alumnus of the Year by Occidental College; and in 1999, he was the recipient of the Alumni Achievement Award from Harvard Business School. Cornwell is married to Sandra Williams-Cornwell and has two adult children, K. Don Cornwell and Samantha Cornwell.

W. Don Cornwell was interviewed by the The HistoryMakers on May 17, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.077

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/17/2012

Last Name

Cornwell

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Harvard Business School

Occidental College

Stadium High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

W. Don

Birth City, State, Country

Cushing

HM ID

COR03

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Oklahoma

Favorite Vacation Destination

Amagansett, New York

Favorite Quote

It is what it is.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

1/17/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Salad (Kale)

Short Description

Broadcast chief executive and financial executive Don Cornwell (1948 - ) was the founder of the largest African American controlled television broadcast group in America.

Employment

Granite Broadcasting

Goldman, Sachs & Co.

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:13032,119:13380,124:23200,242:26480,342:51000,726:51534,733:52068,741:57497,818:88327,1202:88693,1212:88998,1218:89852,1235:90401,1247:91560,1270:96218,1326:96578,1332:99170,1380:108367,1494:113344,1597:113722,1605:113974,1610:115675,1655:121196,1706:123500,1731:123788,1736:129188,1835:129476,1840:134002,1863:134658,1872:137528,1899:148654,2053:149446,2066:162306,2130:183769,2474:184171,2481:191206,2593:191742,2598:195896,2654:212672,2838:230708,2986:237404,3097:242490,3137$0,0:1370,37:1930,46:2560,57:3610,78:5920,108:6760,123:11940,210:12360,218:13130,230:13900,239:16140,279:16770,314:17750,325:18590,338:18870,343:19500,354:25250,375:25782,383:28670,427:29050,433:30418,438:30798,444:33458,479:38930,547:40374,559:41058,570:41362,575:42198,588:43186,598:44630,618:45086,625:45466,631:45846,637:46226,643:52620,661:53259,672:53543,677:53898,683:65187,875:65471,880:66181,892:67104,899:74834,944:75204,950:76018,955:76684,965:77498,970:80976,1023:84232,1055:93114,1133:95334,1166:101998,1216:102458,1222:102918,1229:103286,1234:107632,1269:114807,1355:115717,1370:116172,1375:116900,1381:121723,1433:127326,1464:128334,1479:129174,1491:130182,1502:133314,1536:135339,1560:135906,1569:137121,1587:138741,1606:139308,1615:139875,1623:146112,1768:149190,1810:149595,1816:157420,1834:167248,1979:167668,1985:168172,1993:172580,2005:173291,2015:173607,2020:180085,2134:180638,2143:180954,2148:181981,2164:182929,2177:183245,2186:183561,2191:187038,2203:188032,2219:188529,2228:195203,2341:195771,2351:196978,2360:197333,2366:197830,2375:198398,2383:198966,2392:200954,2420:208279,2463:211513,2501:211898,2507:214362,2516:214747,2525:215594,2537:226434,2613:227898,2634:231070,2687:233632,2717:244900,2819
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Don Cornwell's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Don Cornwell lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Don Cornwell talks about his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Don Cornwell talks about his grandparents' occupations

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Don Cornwell describes the town where he was born, Cushing, Oklahoma

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Don Cornwell talks about his mother's history

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Don Cornwell talks about his mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Don Cornwell discusses Oklahoma's role in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Don Cornwell talks about his father

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Don Cornwell talks about his father's experiences in World War II and his father's PTSD

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Don Cornwell talks about his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Don Cornwell talks about his father's aspirations and occupation as a barber

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Don Cornwell talks about how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Don Cornwell shares the story of how his family moved from Oklahoma to the state of Washington

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Don Cornwell talks about his maternal grandparents' education

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Don Cornwell talks about his parents' separation and his father's high standards for education

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Don Cornwell talks about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Don Cornwell describes his likeness to his parents

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Don Cornwell describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Don Cornwell talks about growing up in Tacoma, Washington

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Don Cornwell describes the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Don Cornwell describes the social life of Tacoma, Washington

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Don Cornwell talks about his friends in Tacoma, including Bob Moore

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Don Cornwell talks about not being able to participate in sports as a child due to a heart defect

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Don Cornwell talks about his grandmother's belief in the importance of naps

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Don Cornwell talks about sports in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Don Cornwell talks about elementary school and high school

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Don Cornwell talks about Stadium High School and Puget Sound

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Don Cornwell remembers learning to read at an early age and an influential high school teacher

Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Don Cornwell talks about watching TV when he was growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 16 - Don Cornwell discusses the role of church in his childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Don Cornwell talks about segregation in Tacoma, Washington

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Don Cornwell discusses the African American community in Tacoma, Washington

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Don Cornwell talks about his mentors in middle school

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Don Cornwell talks about his aspirations and heroes in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Don Cornwell talks about the Civil Rights Movement and Malcolm X's assassination

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Don Cornwell talks about his mother's civic activities

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Don Cornwell talks about the 1962 Seattle World's Fair

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Don Cornwell remembers the 1963 March on Washington

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Don Cornwell talks about African American newspapers in Tacoma

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Don Cornwell talks about his favorite subjects in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Don Cornwell talks about his favorite teachers in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Don Cornwell talks about choosing a college

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Don Cornwell talks about some of his activities in high school

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Don Cornwell talks about being senior class president and his decision to attend Occidental College

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Don Cornwell talks about Occidental College

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Don Cornwell describes Occidental College as moderately conservative

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Don Cornwell talks about the African American student organizations at Occidental College

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Don Cornwell talks about the Black Student Association and the African American community in LA

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Don Cornwell talks about his role in the Black Student Association and in student government

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Don Cornwell talks about the professors who influenced him at Occidental College, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Don Cornwell talks about the professors who influenced him at Occidental College, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Don Cornwell talks about changing his focus from law to business

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Don Cornwell talks about the Black Panthers and Ron Karenga's US Organization in Los Angeles

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Don Cornwell talks about meeting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his assassination

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Don Cornwell discusses Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination and the Watts riots

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Don Cornwell talks about his experiences with the Los Angeles police force

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Don Cornwell talks about black empowerment and the Black Panther shootings in 1969

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Don Cornwell talks about going to Harvard Business School, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Don Cornwell talks about going to Harvard Business School, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Don Cornwell talks about the discrimination faced by his class at Harvard Business School

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Don Cornwell talks about the professors at Harvard Business School, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Don Cornwell talks about the professors at Harvard Business School, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Don Cornwell talks about his classmates at Harvard Business School

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Don Cornwell talks about the role that Occidental College played in his preparation for Harvard

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Don Cornwell describes how integrated environments can foster skills development

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Don Cornwell talks about working at Goldman Sachs

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Don Cornwell talks about the dissolution of his marriage and his subsequent promotion at Goldman Sachs

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Don Cornwell discusses his tenure at Goldman Sachs as well as his boss and mentor at the firm, Peter Sacerdote

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Don Cornwell talks about leaving Goldman Sachs and pursuing a new venture in broadcasting and television station ownership

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Don Cornwell talks about how minority tax certificates encouraged his start in television station ownership

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Don Cornwell talks about buying his first two TV stations

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Don Cornwell talks about the successful start of his TV stations

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Don Cornwell discusses his management approach in broadcasting

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Don Cornwell discusses taking his company, Granite Broadcasting, public in 1991

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Don Cornwell talks about the stations Granite Broadcasting purchased after going public in 1991

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Don Cornwell talks about competing with Rupert Murdoch for a station in Austin, Texas

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Don Cornwell talks about rebuilding a local station in Austin, Texas

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Don Cornwell reflects on one of the biggest mistakes of his career and its impact on Granite Broadcasting

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Don Cornwell discusses how his company's inexperience and financial situation affected its growth

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Don Cornwell talks about partnering with NBC

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Don Cornwell talks about selling a station to NBC and the sale's negative impact on Granite Broadcasting

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Don Cornwell talks about what he did to try to ameliorate Granite Broadcasting's financial situation

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Don Cornwell recalls filing for bankruptcy and the impact of the financial crisis

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Don Cornwell talks about what he would do differently about Granite Broadcasting

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Don Cornwell shares advice for young entrepreneurs

Tape: 7 Story: 12 - Don Cornwell describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community today

Tape: 7 Story: 13 - Don Cornwell reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 14 - Don Cornwell talks about how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

7$5

DAStory

6$5

DATitle
Don Cornwell talks about partnering with NBC
Don Cornwell talks about going to Harvard Business School, pt. 2
Transcript
Okay. So we're like almost at two thousand?$$Yes, yes. So 2000 was an important year for us because we got the bright idea that our ABC [American Broadcasting Company] affiliate in San Jose [California]--that even though it only served in a historic sense the San Jose portion of the Bay Area [California]. If you are familiar with the bay area there is San Jose, there is kind of the peninsula, people call that Silicon Valley [California] then there is San Francisco [California] then there is the east bay with Oakland [California], Berkeley [California] and what have you. We were technically the San Jose affiliate for ABC but our signal covered the entire market all the way up to Napa [Napa Valley, California]. We didn't have as great a signal in some of the nooks and crannies of San Francisco though but people in Oakland, Berkeley whatever they could get a signal perfectly well. So because NBC was having a fight with its then affiliate KRON, K-R-O-N and this was public, we went to NBC [National Broadcasting Company] and said you know if you guys really are unhappy with your affiliate before you go and affiliate yourself with one of the lesser stations in town because there was a couple of other options but they didn't have nearly what we had, we said you ought to consider working with us. And so the first thing they had to satisfy themselves was on the engineering in other words are these guys correct about what they say about the signal. And so they did a lot of work on that and after the work they came to us and said you are right, we had no idea and so we would like to work together. Long and short of it all a lot of different anecdotes that I could go on for way too long in that incident or that story. But at the end of the day they ultimately decided to switch the affiliation to us and that took place in 2000 but they couldn't actually switch until 2002 because their deal with the other affiliate lasted until 2002. That gave us we thought a wonderful amount of time where we could comfortably rebuild the station. It needed to have a much bigger news presence than a news presence that only covered San Jose because we now have to satisfy the other communities and that would be expensive and time consuming and we didn't want to do what we did in--if we could avoid it in Austin [Texas] again which was to cram this in about seven months. So we had 2001 to start this process but unfortunately 2001 as you may recall was a rather interesting year with 9-11 and with war breaking out and what have you. And once again we found ourselves in a real recession from an advertiser perspective and so we were spending a very significant amount of money. Probably over twenty million dollars to build out both with new equipment and with new people, reporters and what have you what we felt a first class news operation in the bay area. We were doing it against a backdrop of declining revenue throughout the rest of our business and so we sort of struggled our way through 2001 and by the end of 2001 where we're ready to go in 2000 but I guess it's fair to say that NBC wanted the station.$What I quickly discovered at Harvard Business School was that I was in no way prepared. That all I had was somewhat of an analytical skill; that I had the ability to work very hard but that I had been dropped into an environment where if people were speaking Arabic or Greek or Korean or what have you I wouldn't have known because they were speaking a language that I knew nothing about. So my--it's a two year program. My first year after classes I would go to the library, Baker Library and simply immerse myself in the stacks of magazines, Fortune and Forbes and what have you and basically read articles about people whose names would come up in class. Because if they would mention a corporate raider by the name of Jimmy Ling (ph. splg.) in class and what he had done and why this was smart and what have you. Well I had no idea who Jimmy Ling was and so I had to very quickly get myself acculturated to the environment and spent my first year basically just using whatever aptitude I had and fortitude and what have you to survive the place. Which, you know, I didn't do too badly in that environment. Harvard Business School was if I could just add a quick comment--so now I'm in the East and for the first time I find myself with I would describe it as people who are ostensibly liberal and who are ostensibly on my side but who unlike my friends on the West Coast white who seemed to accept my premise of whatever I thought the path should be, at Harvard it was exactly the opposite. That it was we know best somewhat paternalistic and we're going to tell you what you should do. And my class of African Americans was by far the largest group that had ever been allowed in the Harvard Business School. I think there were about seventy of us out of class of about eight hundred. It was the first time in my memory where I was expected to fail as opposed to succeed. The Harvest News which is the campus newspaper, I think it still exists, had an article the first week of school that indicated that faculty members-unnamed faculty members felt that the flunk out rate they called it hitting the screen at Harvard would be much higher than had historically been the case because the implication was that the school had allowed in a much larger percentage of people who probably were not qualified to be there. And so if there was ever any doubt that the African American students would coalesce and become reasonably cohesive, it was in that environment. And so the freshman, the first year was quite an interesting experience for me and it I could tell you anecdotes forever we would end up with a nineteen hour interview. But there were lots of times during that year that ended up being very interesting and helped formed probably my personality as I went further into my adult business career.

Frank Washington

Attorney and communications industry expert Frank Washington was born on December 27, 1947, in Washington, D.C. In 1971, Washington graduated from Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He then went on to enroll at Yale University Law School where he graduated in 1974.

In 1974, Washington was hired as a lawyer at the firm of Arnold and Porter in Washington, D.C. Preferring a more administrative role, he pursued a governmental position. In 1976, Washington joined the Carter White House where he worked on communications policy for the Domestic Policy Council, helping to develop and implement programs to foster wider minority ownership in communications companies. He oversaw cable and broadcast as the Deputy Chief of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Broadcast Bureau, and was also the legal assistant to the chairman of the FCC. Then, in 1981, Washington became the vice president of Time Mirror Company and was instrumental in the development of Videotex America.

During the 1980s, Washington continued working for Time Mirror in various capacities helping to develop new cable and videotext services. In 1984, he joined McClatchy Newspapers in Sacramento, California as vice president of electronic communications and used his skills to supervise the company’s cable, radio, cellular radio and electronic information services. Around this time, Washington began establishing his own business partnerships. From 1989 to 1995, he served as general partner in cable television limited partnerships located throughout the United States, with a combined subscriber base of nearly one half million. In 1995, Washington attempted unsuccessfully to buy Viacom, Inc. In 1996, he became CEO and president of the Sacramento-based computer technology solutions provider, System Integrators, Inc. In addition, Washington was a founder, investor and principal in Aurora Communications, a broadcast radio company.

Washington was the chairman and CEO of Tower of Babel LLC from 2004 to 2008, and has controlling interests in two other broadcast television operations. He serves on the boards of numerous companies including: World Television of Washington LLC, Spartan LLC, and Quantum Communications LLC. Washington also serves as the director of several non-profit organizations including: the Board of Visitors of UC Davis School of Medicine; UC Davis Medical School’s Center for Health and Technology; and the California Chamber of Commerce board.

Accession Number

A2008.069

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/1/2008

Last Name

Washington

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Orangeburg Elementary School

Nyack Senior High School

Clarkstown High School

Cornell University

Yale University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Frank

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

WAS06

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

Eric Broyles

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

12/27/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Sacramento

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Broadcast chief executive and media executive Frank Washington (1947 - ) was the deputy chief of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Broadcast Bureau and the legal assistant to the chairman of the FCC during the Carter Administration. He also served as Vice President of Electronic Communications for McClatchy Newspapers, now The McClatchy Company, and was the chairman and CEO of Tower of Babel LLC.

Employment

Arnold & Porter LLC

Carter White House Office of Telecommunications Policy

Federal Communications Commission

Times Mirror

The McClatchy Company

System Integrator, Inc.

Aurora Communications

Tower of Babel LLC

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:21758,499:22138,505:28329,546:36429,683:36996,692:38454,715:48584,833:49800,852:50104,861:56944,1001:63210,1045:65485,1109:68345,1170:68800,1180:72960,1270:84084,1433:92400,1523:98478,1584:98782,1589:99466,1599:100302,1613:103646,1671:104178,1682:119040,1868:133690,2158:134122,2165:144434,2331:145682,2357:146228,2367:147008,2374:147788,2388:149114,2415:149738,2424:150908,2461:153092,2521:165310,2646:170116,2744:178542,2834:186522,2988:187054,2996:197848,3083:198304,3094:198988,3105:201192,3148:215790,3381$0,0:4160,109:9152,241:10112,258:14592,337:15168,348:19490,357:19946,364:21542,394:23442,429:26862,496:29294,542:32410,600:33094,616:33398,621:45762,788:47618,840:50498,907:54594,987:65580,1156:68570,1219:68830,1224:69220,1231:69480,1236:69870,1243:71820,1289:72275,1298:85910,1514:91935,1596:99435,1750:100260,1772:110981,1902:112587,1952:112952,1959:123245,2158:133220,2278
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Frank Washington's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Frank Washington lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Frank Washington describes his mother's childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Frank Washington describes his mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Frank Washington describes his father's childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Frank Washington describes his father's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Frank Washington talks about his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Frank Washington describes his paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Frank Washington describes his parents' siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Frank Washington recalls moving to Rockland County, New York as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Frank Washington talks about how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Frank Washington describes his earliest memories of Rockland County

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Frank Washington describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Frank Washington describes experiencing racism as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Frank Washington describes his childhood life at home

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Frank Washington talks about his experience at Orangeburg Elementary School

Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Frank Washington talks about his childhood interest in veterinary medicine

Tape: 1 Story: 18 - Frank Washington describes his experience at Clarkstown High School

Tape: 1 Story: 19 - Frank Washington talks about applying to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Frank Washington describes adjusting to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Frank Washington describes his view on poverty

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Frank Washington remembers his first day at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Frank Washington describes his first year at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Frank Washington talks about dodging the Vietnam War draft

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Frank Washington describes the 1969 campus takeover at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Frank Washington describes his social life at Cornell University in Ithaca, New york

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Frank Washington remembers working in a paper factory

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Frank Washington talks about deciding to go to law school

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Frank Washington talks about notable classmates at Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Frank Washington talks about student body diversity at Yale Law School

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Frank Washington talks about his relationship with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Frank Washington remembers his first year at Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Frank Washington talks about publishing a note in the Yale Law Journal

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Frank Washington talks about developing an interest in communications

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Frank Washington talks about criticism of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Frank Washington talks about the Clarence Thomas hearings

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Frank Washington talks about being hired at Arnold and Porter, LLP after graduating from Yale Law School in 1974

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Frank Washington talks about his early work in communications

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Frank Washington describes his tenure at Arnold and Porter, LLP

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Frank Washington explains how he got hired to the White House Office of Telecommunications Policy

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Frank Washington describes his experience in the Office of Telecommunications Policy, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Frank Washington describes his experience in the Office of Telecommunications Policy, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Frank Washington describes working at the Federal Communications Commission [FCC]

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Frank Washington talks about the impact of the tax certificate on minority ownership of cable stations

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Frank Washington talks about abuse of power in Washington D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Frank Washington describes becoming Deputy Chief of the Broadcast Bureau

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Frank Washington talks about media convergence

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Frank Washington describes working at the Times Mirror Company

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Frank Washington talks about working at McClatchy Newspapers

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Frank Washington talks about leaving McClatchy newspapers to make his own investments and having his business deals criticized

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Frank Washington talks about Congress' repeal of the tax certificate, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Frank Washington talks about Congress' repeal of the tax certificate, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Frank Washington describes his hopes for the future of people of color in broadcasting

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Frank Washington reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Frank Washington shares his advice for young black entrepreneurs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

1$6

DATitle
Frank Washington describes his experience in the Office of Telecommunications Policy, pt. 1
Frank Washington describes becoming Deputy Chief of the Broadcast Bureau
Transcript
--So you've, you're at a law firm and you're in a transition point where you're going to think about what else is going on. Carter's [President James Earl "Jimmy" Carter] campaign is going on and you know some people in there that are involved in communications and they're starting to view you as someone that could be very, very, very instrumental in what they're trying to get accomplished at this point?$$Right, so they ask me to come in to join this Office of Telecommunications Policy in the White House to focus on coming up with ways to facilitate minority ownership, among other things, and there were several things that stood out there for me, one is that, as I got into what was required for this job, which a lot of it was, you know, thinking and dabbling in public policy, talking to a lot of people, trying to get an understanding, you know, of what the frame of the, framework of the problem was and then, you know, trying to see, okay, what alternatives the people have to deal with that, that's when it first dawned on me how much I hated being a lawyer--$$Uh-hum.$$--'cause I realized how much I enjoyed doing what I was doing. I mean, it was being much more creative and it just felt, I mean it felt like a, you know, a huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders. So if I needed any more validation of why I probably shouldn't continue as a lawyer, that was it right there. The other thing was, this whole power thing, okay, two aspects of that, one, I was absolutely flabbergasted by how little power the president had. I mean, ultimately, his ability to make something happen was no better than the people he had that were in sympathy or in support of what he was trying to do and their ability to convince the people in these various executive agencies to do it because they, obviously, well not obviously, but they had, they simply had other motivations and they were going to do whatever they were going to do and they didn't give a damn what the President thought. So that was a real stark thing. The other thing was the realization from my standpoint, you know, somebody had told me about this idea of Potomac fever--how people would go to D.C. and get so hung up on the power, they'd disappear into it. They'd never come out again. And I was absolutely convinced that I was not going to let that happen to myself. I felt, all along, that this was somebody else, this is the people's power, not mine. It was something I could use and I needed to use it judiciously and, you know, just like a tool, when you're done with it, you put it away. It's not, it doesn't belong to you. So those were a couple of things and, you know, there were some interesting manifestations of that. I remember we put on a series of, of discussions that were held in the Roosevelt Room of the White House and the idea was we would get some of the key players in this whole minority ownership arena, have them come in and talk, you know, and then use that as a way of getting ideas, etc., etc. I could not believe the political sensitivity around that. I mean, people who didn't get invited, you know, who thought they should have been invited or the people trying to get invited, regardless , I mean it, you know, it really my, opened my very naive eyes. I mean, I'm coming from nowhere. You know, the people I grew up with had no power to do anything. ...$How long did you stay with, stay as deputy, as the legal assistant?$$Well, I was legal assistant for about a year, maybe a year and a half and then the chairman asked me to become the Deputy Chief of the Broadcast Bureau--$$Uh-hum.$$--which oversaw cable as well as all broadcasting. And that was actually a very interesting experience because it expanded beyond just the public policy, slash legal stuff, it got me involved in real management opportunity and I started to realize, you now, I'm really good at this. And, furthermore, I had always been, as a lawyer, looking over the shoulder of my clients at what they were doing from a business standpoint and the thing I started to realize even more in the role at the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] was how much I liked the business part and, furthermore, even though we were making a lot of changes, I mean, we were, we deregulated cable, we deregulated radio, we introduced cellular radio, we introduced direct broadcast satellite, massive--$$In the '70s [1970s]?$$Yeah, massive changes. It seemed to me that all we were doing was opening doors. The people that are going to walk through those doors were going to be business people and entrepreneurs that really made things happen. And there's this picture called 'Mr. Roberts' that I kind of use as a metaphor because in this picture, he's--during World War Two, and he's stuck on this supply ship where he's, you know, in the back waters, he wants to get to where the real war is. One night he's, you know, out having a smoke and he sees these ships of the line, you know, battleships and carriers, obviously headed to a big battle. I mean, it was probably Okinawa and, you know, but the captain on his ship won't let him off because, you know, he needs him to do this stuff. Well, I mean, not total analogy but the point was, I'm thinking to myself, you know what, I'm out of here. You know, I'm going to figure out a way to make a transition in the business, out of law, out of government, by God, out of D.C., and I really started to focus on that when I realized Carter had lost and, you know, the administrations were gonna to change and it was time to leave and I was blessed in that I got an opportunity to join a company called Times Mirror--$$

Barbara L. Thomas

Barbara Louise Thomas was the president and CEO of the Chicago based National Black Master of Business Administration Association (NBMBAA). Thomas was born on December 5, 1947, in Dublin, Georgia, one of Jerrie Lee Tart and Horace Sanders’s thirteen children. Thomas was raised by foster parents Georgia and George Monroe in Dublin, where she attended segregated public schools and graduated from Oconee High School. In 1965, Thomas moved to New York City with her birth mother and took a job at Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited - Associated Community Teams (HARYOU-ACT) where she met her husband. Thomas went on to receive her B.A. degree from New York's Bernard Baruch College in 1970 and her M.B.A. degree from Columbia University in 1973.

While a university student, Thomas clerked at CBS’s Radio Division. After completing her education, Thomas moved into the CBS television division and managed network cut-ins, a position she credits with opening the door to her twenty-five year career at CBS. Eventually Thomas was the first African American woman to attend CBS’s School of Management. Thomas later became director of finance and administration for CBS, and left the network in 1989 after serving as the first African American woman to act as a senior vice-president.

Moving on from CBS to function as chief financial officer for various health care organizations and other non-profit groups, Thomas moved to Chicago in 2001 and spent two years as the chief financial officer for the NBMBAA. The board of directors of the NBMBAA appointed Thomas as president in 2003.

Citing her faith as a major sustaining force in her life, Thomas remained active in her church. Thomas raised two daughters and had five grandchildren.

Accession Number

A2005.169

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/21/2005

Last Name

Thomas

Maker Category
Middle Name

L.

Schools

Oconee High School

City University of New York

Baruch College

Columbia University

Susie Dasher Elementary School

CBS School of Management

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Barbara

Birth City, State, Country

Dublin

HM ID

THO09

Favorite Season

All Seasons

Sponsor

The Jay Pritzker Foundation

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Beaches

Favorite Quote

I'm Blessed.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

12/5/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Donuts (Krispy Kreme)

Short Description

Association executive and broadcast executive Barbara L. Thomas (1947 - ) was appointed president of the National Black Master of Business Administration Association in 2003.

Employment

National Black MBA Association

Harlem United Activists for Community

CBS Radio

CBS Television Division

CBS Television Finance Division

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
0,0:1144,11:2728,30:3080,35:9504,161:13376,225:13816,230:14168,236:15312,253:16104,264:24130,319:25850,343:26796,359:27398,368:33645,429:34375,440:35251,458:35616,464:37076,496:40221,524:41094,534:44370,564:47450,614:47978,621:52202,719:53698,744:54578,755:55458,769:56338,780:57482,797:63210,841:67185,929:67560,935:78164,1101:81042,1117:81862,1128:83092,1150:83830,1161:91935,1284:93660,1306:93960,1311:95985,1358:100767,1417:105240,1526:109704,1585:110644,1598:111490,1609:111960,1615:112806,1632:115234,1653:120994,1792:127618,1959:128122,1968:133700,2031:137832,2084:138180,2089:138963,2101:146097,2230:151737,2273:152664,2285:153282,2292:156475,2370:157093,2378:161218,2394:165310,2428$0,0:736,13:8224,214:9004,226:10174,243:10486,248:14542,319:14854,324:15166,329:16180,350:17740,380:18520,395:24134,422:26420,442:27122,452:28136,463:29306,484:31022,511:31568,520:32894,549:33518,559:38888,593:39455,604:39707,609:40085,616:40526,627:40778,632:42542,668:43172,680:44558,704:45629,731:46385,748:50417,844:50669,849:51236,861:51488,866:52433,892:52874,901:62054,983:62678,992:62990,997:67124,1076:82140,1159:83850,1180:84420,1187:90595,1279:95373,1301:95870,1311:96722,1325:97006,1330:98142,1353:98710,1362:99278,1372:113246,1498:114311,1517:121624,1657:122121,1665:122831,1680:123967,1708:124393,1715:125600,1734:126097,1743:126807,1756:127091,1761:127801,1776:128440,1788:129079,1798:130073,1815:134590,1828:134998,1835:135406,1842:136086,1858:137514,1883:140266,1919:140994,1929:142268,1961:146523,1975:147020,1984:147446,1991:151990,2048:153130,2073:153662,2082:153966,2087:158222,2192:158526,2197:160046,2232:160578,2240:161414,2263:161794,2276:168163,2317:168678,2323:182633,2494:183712,2591:184376,2601:188674,2614:189514,2628:196250,2705:199860,2740
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Barbara L. Thomas' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Barbara L. Thomas lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her parents' occupations

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her father and how she resembles him

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Barbara L. Thomas describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls Susie Dasher Elementary School and Oconee High School, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls Susie Dasher Elementary School and Oconee High School, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls her experiences at Oconee High School

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her extracurricular activities in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Barbara L. Thomas recounts her civil rights activity in Dublin, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls her favorite television shows growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Barbara L. Thomas talks about attending college and moving to New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls working for HARYOU-ACT

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls meeting her husband and their marriage in 1967

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls studying finance and obtaining her M.B.A. degree from Columbia University

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Barbara L. Thomas recalls her various promotions at CBS

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Barbara L. Thomas recounts her experiences at the CBS School of Management

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her retirement from CBS and subsequent roles

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Barbara L. Thomas recounts the history of the National Black MBA Association

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Barbara L. Thomas describes the activities of the National Black MBA Association

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Barbara L. Thomas describes the current climate for young black people with M.B.A.s

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Barbara L. Thomas details the National Black MBA Association's future plans

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her involvement with her church

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Barbara L. Thomas describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Barbara L. Thomas reflects upon her life

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Barbara L. Thomas reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Barbara L. Thomas reflects upon her family

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Barbara L. Thomas describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Barbara L. Thomas describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

3$1

DATitle
Barbara L. Thomas recounts her civil rights activity in Dublin, Georgia
Barbara L. Thomas recounts her experiences at the CBS School of Management
Transcript
Okay. And when you, well, in that part of Georgia was there any civil rights activity going on there?$$Oh, yeah, I was a naughty little girl (laughter). I did have one experience and it was really an accident. And Georgia gets very, very hot and you walk every place. I mean, you know, teenagers didn't drive their parents' cars, you, you walked. And we were not allowed to go into any of the white restaurants. And in the department stores there is a water fountain and it would say what, white and colored. But our water was always hot and it would never come up to high but the white fountains water was always high and icy cold.$$In the cooler--$$And, yeah.$$--or water cooler.$$Oh, yeah. And so one day we were cutting through the department store, Belk's Department Store on our way home and it was hot and I wanted a drink of water and I just figured no one was watching so I thought I'd steal some water from the white fountain and next thing I know the sheriff had me by the shoulders (laughter).$$The, the sheriff himself?$$The sheriff, right. He just happened to be in the, in the store. Like, I really got quite a lashing. But because he knew my father [Horace Sanders] I didn't get thrown in jail but I probably would have. So I thought since I got away with that I could get away with something else. So then there was, we used to have a drugstore and it had a soda fountain but we weren't allowed, I mean, we could go in and order if we wanted to but you had to stand over in the back, you weren't allowed to sit. And I decided one day to sit down. Well, that was the time I got taken down to the jail house. I didn't get locked up but it frightened me enough to know that I dare not do those things again. But there was a lot of picketing, you know, a lot of protesting and it started back in the '60s [1960s].$$Now did you keep up--$$In Dublin [Georgia].$$--with civil rights activity?$$Yeah, you know, as far as reading and what was going on. And I was, of course, very anxious to, you know, to participate in it but, you know. You didn't have as much going on in Dublin as you did in Atlanta [Georgia] or Macon [Georgia], the larger cities that surrounded us, you know. But our voices were, their voices were heard, you know. But my parents and foster parents [George Monroe and Georgia Monroe], you know, at that time I was back with my parents, didn't allow us to participate, you know.$Well tell us about the CBS School of Management [New York, New York]. You know, is CBS the only network to have its own school of management?$$I, I don't know. I don't know if other networks had it. But I, I, I remember us going to the old Ford mansion up in upstate New York, I can't even remember where, but I was just very surprised that I was selected and again it was the same gentleman Donald Bryan [ph.] who had watched me. And he basically said to me that he saw a lot of potential in me and he was going to help me, you know, learn the ropes and make my way up the ladder. And I received a memo saying that I had been selected to go to the CBS School of Management, which was a total shock because first of all I was black, and to me that was a very prestigious place and you didn't, you know, you didn't get to go in there. But what they did is they selected people that they felt had potential and the company wanted to invest in because they saw you as a long term employee that they could truly see the return on their investment. CBS School of Management basically taught you how to dress, how to speak, which pieces of silverware to use when you're out on a client meeting, you know. We did simulations, but with the simulations then back, if you were the president of CBS, you know, how would you run this company. So you had a full day where you were the president. These are things people are doing now that CBS was doing way back, you know, in the '60s [1960s]. It, I guess, in its, one could say that it brainwashed you because I went out and bought more pinstripe, black and blue pinstriped suits than I ever knew in my life because that was what, that was the dress. But it really prepared you to be ready to step out and meet with their key clients and negotiate business for the company. So that's really what it was all about, preparing you for that.$$Okay. So, so an emphasis on style and culture and how to--$$Exactly. Exactly. But very few people were selected to attend this, go through this. So I was very, very privileged to have had that opportunity. And it was a, you know, it was much, much more intense and I'm sort of giving you the, the high level of it but there was a lot of intense time. We were up very early in the morning, you know, to very late at night going through trainings that they had provided for us.$$How long did it last?$$I think it was about two and a half weeks of--$$And--$$--just intense. And you didn't go home to your family.$$And about what, what year was this (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) That's what I'm trying to remember. I believe, if I remember it was in 1973, I have to look at my, my award, my, that I received from them.$$All right.$$My diploma.

Abe Thompson

Abraham “Abe” Thompson, Jr., was born in Chicago, Illinois, on November 22, 1951, one of seven children in his family. After graduating from Calumet High School, Thompson attended Carthage College in 1969 and then transferred to Western Illinois University where he graduated from in 1974.

In 1975, Thompson joined the staff of WVON radio in Chicago as a salesman where he quickly found success. Thompson was hired by WGCI in 1980, where he became the local sales manager, and the following year he was named general sales manager. While at WCGI in 1984, Thompson met and married his wife, Launa Thompson, and in 1985, he became the vice-president and station manager of WCGI. Thompson moved to Detroit in 1986, taking over operations at WRIF while serving as vice-president and general manager; during his two years there, he helped turn the station around. Returning to Chicago in 1988, Thompson was named station manager of WVAZ.

Thompson began marketing for films and international events in 1991, including the 1991 Cancun Jazz festival and the 1995 Sinbad’s Soul Music Festival in St. Martin. In addition, Thompson has been a highly successful motivational speaker. In 1999, Thompson became president and CEO of Partnership Radio, a group of radio stations in Northwest Indiana. In 2000, Thompson published his first book, My Thoughts, Your Book, Our Journal, for his son, Phoenix. In 2003, Radio Ink ranked Thompson as one of the thirty most influential African Americans in radio.

Thompson’s wife, Launa, passed away in 2004.

Accession Number

A2004.249

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/7/2004

Last Name

Thompson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widower

Organizations
Schools

Calhoun North Elem School

Gladstone Elem School

Calumet Career Prep Academy High School

Carthage College

Western Illinois University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Abe

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

THO07

Favorite Season

Winter

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Birmingham, England, Caribbean, Spain

Favorite Quote

I Love You.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

11/22/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Broadcast chief executive and radio station manager Abe Thompson (1951 - ) served as the vice president and station manager of WCGI in Chicago, the vice-president and general manager of WRIF in Detroit, the station manager of WVAZ in Chicago, and the president and CEO of Partnership Radio in Northwest Indiana.

Employment

WVON Radio (Chicago)

WGCI FM (Radio Chicago)

WRIF-Radio

WVAZ-FM

Partnership Radio

Focus Radio

Favorite Color

Lime, Purple, Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:3205,191:3489,196:4270,225:8317,311:9737,336:14060,368:17756,471:27584,697:37374,826:39199,882:40221,904:51186,1121:62420,1310:66054,1389:84874,1732:86346,1762:94105,1913:94630,1922:101771,2037:102324,2049:103746,2180:117768,2316:121044,2410:122760,2437:134902,2685:136057,2714:137366,2749:158200,2946:159580,3081:160480,3097$0,0:23662,529:28694,650:40522,796:40874,801:51055,990:71945,1227:73310,1253:79582,1412:83038,1468:90730,1670:114200,2037:114936,2047:124690,2207:126538,2245:127126,2291:140912,2418:143348,2462:149396,2609:150404,2626:150992,2634:162736,2878:186404,3241:190030,3302:191066,3323:191362,3328:192102,3340:192546,3347:192842,3352:193360,3360:194618,3417:194914,3422:195284,3428:207100,3526:216800,3707:217080,3712:217850,3726:248288,4191:249674,4221:256470,4282:259062,4346:260214,4360:266730,4456
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Abe Thompson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Abe Thompson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Abe Thompson describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Abe Thompson describes his maternal and paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Abe Thompson describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Abe Thompson recounts how his parents met in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Abe Thompson describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Abe Thompson describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Abe Thompson lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Abe Thompson describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Abe Thompson explains how he came to live with his father after his parents' divorce

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Abe Thompson describes his neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Abe Thompson describes his childhood personality

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Abe Thompson describes his childhood activities and attending Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Abe Thompson recalls the various schools he attended in Chicago, Illinois and his memorable teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Abe Thompson talks about meeting legendary entertainers through his music teacher at Calumet High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Abe Thompson reflects upon his participation in high school activities

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Abe Thompson explains his decision to attend Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Abe Thompson talks about leaving Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin and transferring to Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Abe Thompson remembers his time at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Abe Thompson talks about his studies in psychology at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Abe Thompson explains the complexity of statistics

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Abe Thompson talks about his interest in religious studies

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Abe Thompson shares why he loves studying religion

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Abe Thompson talks about leaving his sales job at Ryerson steel corporation for a job in radio

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Abe Thompson talks about the history of urban radio in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Abe Thompson talks about the connections he made in the media business as a salesman for WVON radio in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Abe Thompson talks about the history of WVON and WGCI in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Abe Thompson talks about the history of WVON and WGCI in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Abe Thompson talks about the marketing labels assigned by radio stations to various genres of music

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Abe Thompson talks about the cultural context for slang words and music

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Abe Thompson details his career trajectory at WGCI radio in Chicago Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Abe Thompson describes how he met and married his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Abe Thompson talks about his time in Detroit, Michigan as general manager and vice president of WRIF radio

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Abe Thompson talks about forming Partnership Radio and acquiring radio stations

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Abe Thompson talks about the passing of his wife, Launa Thompson, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Abe Thompson talks about the passing of his wife, Launa Thompson, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Abe Thompson talks about life lessons he learned from his wife's death, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Abe Thompson talks about life lessons he learned from his wife's death, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Abe Thompson reflects upon the current state of marriage in the United States, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Abe Thompson reflects upon the current state of marriage in the United States, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Abe Thompson shares his advice for lasting relationships and friendships

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Abe Thompson talks about publishing his book, 'My Thoughts, Your Journal, Our Book'

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Abe Thompson talks about the reception of his book, 'My Thoughts, Your Journal, Our Book,' and its reprint through Third World Press

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Abe Thompson describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Abe Thompson reflects upon his life

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Abe Thompson reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Abe Thompson talks about his family sharing in his success

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Abe Thompson talks about stock ownership as a means for African Americans to influence the media

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Abe Thompson describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Abe Thompson talks about the barriers to owning radio stations

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Abe Thompson remembers Tom Lewis, first black radio station owner

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Abe Thompson talks about the process of acquiring his first radio station, WUBU in Kalamazoo, Michigan

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Abe Thompson talks about organizations that fought for the inclusion of minorities in broadcasting

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Abe Thompson talks about satellite radio

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

8$4

DATitle
Abe Thompson remembers his time at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois
Abe Thompson talks about leaving his sales job at Ryerson steel corporation for a job in radio
Transcript
So then Western [Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois] kind of turned you loose, right?$$Well it was just one--$$(Unclear) (simultaneous)--$$--(simultaneous) it was just that experience was just like you go here and you got your own room, you know, you can stay out as long you want. And I said when I became resident advisor, I'm an athlete and, well first of all, everybody, if you're, if you're okay as an athlete, they like you 'cause you, you know, you're playing football, basketball, tennis, whatever, so folks are like yeah, there goes so and so. But if you're a resident advisor, if you're pretty cool, everybody's like yeah, this guy runs the floor, so I had both of those. So I was like, oh, you know. The guys, and here's the thing, I was probably the youngest guy on my floor 'cause I was a resident advisor like as a sophomore, a lot of the guys were juniors and seniors, so I'm their leader. You know, and I had to keep, I kept 'em in line. I told 'em I said, listen, I would, I would stretch the rules, I said, you know, fellows, we're not supposed to do such and such but let me tell you this, as long as everything else is done appropriate and it's cool, we can, we can stretch the rules a little bit, you know. And I said well I don't want the floor messy, you know, guys would have parties, tear up floors, and I'd say as long you don't do that it's cool. And only one time did I have a run-in and that when I had gone away to a game and I came back and the guys had wrecked the floor and I went off. I mean, I went off to the fact that it got confrontational. And then the guys start saying man we ain't never seen [HistoryMaker] Abe [Thompson] mad. So even the guy, a couple of guys I was about to fight and, and again, I'm the only, out of sixteen thousand students I think there were five hundred black students, so I'm a black guy leading all these other guys, leading, I'm a younger, young black guy leading all these older white guys and I made 'em stay in line. And, and the, and the great thing about it is that, it got to a point where it didn't matter, the, the, the class rank, the age, the ethnicity, didn't matter and because I made that clear. You know, I said, you know, that, all that other stuff I, I didn't care what you said, you know, I didn't care, well just, just so you respect each other and respect our floor, didn't tear up our floor. And one time they, the (unclear) I came back the floor was a wreck, man I went off, there was shaving cream all over everything, they had busted some, some of the light fixtures, I said aww man, I went off. And when I went off, I'm trying to think what happened. I think I had to go to practice, 'cause it happened while I was over, while I was on a break, I think I went to, that, that when I came back and found it, that next day I had to go to basketball practice, when I came back the floor was clean, they had cleaned it up. I'm telling you those guys must have apologized to me for about two weeks. So college was great for me too. You know, it was a great, it was a great life experience.$When did you graduate from Western Illinois [University, Macomb, Illinois]?$$I think I left Western in, man, it's been a lot of years for a lot of this stuff. I think I left Western in '73 [1973] or '74 [1974].$$Okay.$$Seventy-three [1973] or '74 [1974], I think I left Western, yeah.$$And so well what did you, well what were you gonna do when you left [Western Illinois University, Macomb, Illinois], did you, did you plan to go to graduate school (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Oh, well it's funny. I majored in psychology also because I thought I wanted to, and, and I was, and I minored, I think, in special education. I thought I wanted to teach, no I wanted to teach learning and disabled children. And I was offered a job at a school in Burlington, Iowa for $7400 a year. And I was also offered a job in sales at the Ryerson steel corporation [Ryerson Holding Corporation, Chicago, Illinois] on the West Side [Chicago, Illinois], came back to the West Side for [$]11,200, the economics won out (laughter). I forgot about saving the world and went for the money (laughter). And I worked at Ryerson and then it was at working at Ryerson I met these people in the media because I was mana-, well I called myself a manager of a band that my brothers had. And I took them around to talent shows and that kind of stuff, and in taking them around that's how I met people in the media. And I saw these people in the media who were making about, I was making eleven grand that was great, but I saw people who were making much more. And I didn't own a car, they had a car, they had cars. I didn't own a suit, they were wearing nice suits and I'm thinking whoa they're making more than I'm making, I'm doing pretty good. And they get paid to like go to stuff, I'm like (making a sound). So I went around and interviewed at every record company that was here, every newspaper, every TV station, every radio station and nobody hired me. So I did it again, nobody hired me. So I did it a third time, nobody hired me. And then after the third round, I started, I called up specific stations and one was VON [WVON, Chicago, Illinois]. And I, you know, I learned in the course of those interviews, that you don't just wanna be a friend with the president or the manager or the vice president, you wanna be friends with the secretary, and receptionist, so I got to know 'em. Man, I knew some of these general managers and stuff would go and be in their offices before they did (laughter) 'cause I got to know their receptionist and stuff. And, and I ended up getting an interview at VON because the secretary of the general manager, her name was Karen [ph.]. Karen said, "[HistoryMaker] Abe [Thompson, Jr.] he's gonna be (unclear) blah, blah, blah." She said, "So why don't you come at this time 'cause he'll be going out and you can catch him going out and you can walk out with him." That's what I did, I came up, he said, "When you wanna start?" So that's how I got my job in radio at VON, at WVON.$$What year is this around about?$$It was either, it was '74 [1974] or '75 [1975], I, I, man the years, I don't know.$$Okay. All right. So, well VON was in like in its heyday then. (Unclear) (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Well, yes and no.$$Okay.$$Yeah. Yes, in terms of it was the only one, it was the only station and people were talking about it 'cause it was in Chicago [Illinois], it was the only black station, black formatted station. But no in terms of it wasn't generating a lot of revenue. You know, it wasn't generating a lot of revenue. I mean, relatively speaking, I mean it was (unclear) but it was, you know, at that time it should have been going gangbusters but, but many people in the marketplace didn't think that we could, that, that we, and I mean black folks or the listeners of VON, could afford certain things. You know, they wouldn't, they didn't think that we could afford Mercedes [Benz], (laughter) you know, big homes and all that kind of stuff, fine jewelry, so. Just interesting, just real interesting.$$So the advertising dollars would (unclear) (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yeah, the, the advertising dollars didn't come in, and still don't for most of those stations, black formatted stations like they should.$$Okay. When I came to Chicago in '77 [1977] black, the VON advertisers were barbeque restaurants and--$$Um-hm.$$--and, you know, bug killers and--$$Um-hm.$$--all that sort of thing.

Alfred Liggins, III

Alfred Charles Liggins III was born on January 30, 1965, in Omaha, Nebraska. Liggins spent his early childhood in Omaha and at the age of seven moved to Washington, D.C. when his mother, radio mogul Cathy Hughes, took a job at Howard University. When he was sixteen, Liggins’s mother and stepfather purchased AM radio station WOL. At first Liggins hosted a teen talk show on WOL, though he was more interested in the record industry than the radio business. In 1983, Liggins earned his high school diploma from Wilson High School in Washington.

After graduation, Liggins drove cross-country to California where he began working in direct mail advertising before landing a job in the record industry. From 1983 until 1984, Liggins worked in sales and management for Light Records and as a production coordinator for singer Patrick Anderson. After a job with Motown Records fell through, Liggins decided to move back to Washington, D.C. in 1985 to help his mother, who was by then divorced and running the fledging radio station alone. Liggins attended night school at the University of the District of Columbia, and worked at the radio station during the day. From 1986 until 1994, Liggins worked in the sales department at WOL, quickly climbing from representative to sales manager, helping the station rise in ratings and into the black. At Liggins's urging the family business began to grow with the purchase of FM stations in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland, thus the beginning of the Radio One empire.

In 1994, Liggins took over the day-to-day operations of the family business, becoming the president and chief executive officer of Radio One, with his mother retaining ownership. In 1995, Liggins earned his MBA degree from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania. In 1999, under Liggins's leadership, Radio One went public and made history as the first female African American owned company on the stock exchange. In 2000, Radio One purchased twenty-one radio stations from Clear Channel, more than doubling the company’s revenue. Radio One eventually became the nation’s largest radio company, targeting African American and urban listeners with fifty-one stations in more than twenty cities.

In 2004, Liggins expanded Radio One’s media sphere when he launched TV One, a cable network for African American adults. Liggins has been the recipient of numerous awards including Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year.

Accession Number

A2004.211

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/20/2004

Last Name

Liggins

Maker Category
Middle Name

C.

Schools

Woodrow Wilson High School

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

University of the District of Columbia

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Alfred

Birth City, State, Country

Omaha

HM ID

LIG01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Nebraska

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

At The End Of The Day.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

1/30/1965

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chinese Food

Short Description

Broadcast chief executive Alfred Liggins, III (1965 - ) is the president and chief executive officer of Radio One. In 2004 he launched TV One, a cable network for African American adults.

Employment

Light Records

Singer Patrick Anderson

WOL Radio

Radio One

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
0,0:10490,139:14360,209:16790,258:26860,411:27665,419:28240,425:38201,604:38549,609:42660,627:44105,654:52260,792:52962,802:61284,906:61932,948:63948,1018:66468,1084:66972,1100:67404,1107:69636,1145:69924,1150:86878,1391:87190,1396:88672,1424:91870,1580:99690,1632$0,0:661,4:969,9:8592,186:9054,197:10671,231:11056,237:12904,273:14059,290:14598,299:15137,307:26255,410:26587,416:26919,421:27251,426:31899,532:38470,572:38870,578:52024,794:53536,829:54124,837:66408,968:74043,1094:77516,1134:82268,1154:83896,1190:84636,1214:90778,1359:91074,1364:91666,1373:92184,1382:102852,1537:103282,1543:108742,1649:111896,1731:112975,1748:115133,1760:115465,1769:116046,1777:117540,1813:125280,1888:124760,1909
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Alfred Liggins, III's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Alfred Liggins, III lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Alfred Liggins, III talks about his mother, HistoryMaker Cathy Hughes

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Alfred Liggins, III remembers his father

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Alfred Liggins, III talks about his maternal and paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls his earliest memories of growing up in Omaha, Nebraska

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls his childhood holidays

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls his childhood home and community in Omaha, Nebraska

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood in Omaha, Nebraska

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Alfred Liggins, III describes a typical day in his childhood in Omaha, Nebraska and recalls his schooling there

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Alfred Liggins, III remembers moving to Washington, D.C. as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls his elementary schools in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Alfred Liggins, III describes his childhood personality, career aspirations and activities in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls his time at Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Alfred Liggins, III talks about his Catholic upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls a neighbor who acted as a second father for him

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls his activities while attending Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls his high school years

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls his mother and stepfather's takeover of radio station WOL-AM in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls hosting a radio show on his mother and stepfather's station, WOL-AM in Washington, D.C, as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls living with his father in Kansas City, Kansas and his maternal uncle and aunt in Houston, Texas as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls his high school friends and their activities in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Alfred Liggins, III talks about the status of his mother and stepfather's radio station, WOL-AM, upon his return to Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls deciding to move to California after graduating from Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C. in 1983

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls celebrities he met through HistoryMaker Cathy Hughes' work in radio

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls his stepfather's move to Los Angeles, California and taking a road trip to go live with him after high school

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls his initial record industry jobs while living in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls tough times that HistoryMaker Cathy Hughes went through with WOL-AM radio station in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Alfred Liggins, III talks about his aspirations for a career in the recording industry

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Alfred Liggins, III describes his return to Washington, D.C. at twenty-one years old

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Alfred Liggins, III reflects upon returning to Washington, D.C. and working in the radio business as a twenty-one year old

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Alfred Liggins, III describes building up WOL-AM's advertising sales

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Alfred Liggins, III talks about HistoryMaker Cathy Hughes' acquisition of their first FM station in the late 1980s, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Alfred Liggins, III talks about HistoryMaker Cathy Hughes' acquisition of their first FM station in the late 1980s, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls making a profit after revising the format of his newly acquired radio station to play urban adult contemporary music

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls buying radio stations in Baltimore, Maryland while working out differences in management style with his mother

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Alfred Liggins, III describes buying radio stations in Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C. after deregulation in the early 1990s

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Alfred Liggins, III talks about earning his M.B.A. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls buying a radio station in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Alfred Liggins, III explains how he gained his own financial stake in Radio One separate from his mother, HistoryMaker Cathy Hughes

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Alfred Liggins, III recalls three events that grew Radio One financially

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Alfred Liggins, III explains the rationale for making Radio One a publicly-traded company

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Alfred Liggins, III reflects on Radio One's timing in going public and the company's radio station buying habits

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Alfred Liggins, III reflects upon having attended Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Alfred Liggins, III offers his thoughts on the importance of college for young African Americans

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Alfred Liggins, III talks about TV One

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Alfred Liggins, III talks about HistoryMaker Johnathan Rodgers, CEO of TV One

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Alfred Liggins, III describes his expectations for TV One

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Alfred Liggins, III reflects on his deferred dream of going into the record business

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Alfred Liggins, III reflects upon his life

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Alfred Liggins, III considers his potential legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

7$8

DATitle
Alfred Liggins, III talks about the status of his mother and stepfather's radio station, WOL-AM, upon his return to Washington, D.C.
Alfred Liggins, III describes buying radio stations in Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C. after deregulation in the early 1990s
Transcript
What was happening at the radio station [WOL-AM, Washington, D.C.] when you came back in 1983 (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Same stuff I mean, you know, I mean, I was, you know, I'm trying to think did I go back to doing sports or was I doing sports in my senior year [at Woodrow Wilson High School, Washington, D.C.] I don't remember. You know, just struggling I mean, you know, they bought WOL in 1980, AM station first time they'd be in, in business for themselves. Economy was horrible, interest rate is sky high, and they were attempting, you know, a new format: black talk. And, you know, I'm sure that they and the community thought it was a noble and much-needed format but advertisers didn't necessarily see value the, the value of it at the time. And, and listeners were also migrating from the FM--from the AM dial to the FM dial. So, you know, things were tough. And that, you know, my mother [HistoryMaker Cathy Hughes] and my stepfather [Dewey Hughes] were always probably pretty good at sort of keeping from me and maybe I just wasn't all that interested. You know, how tough things were I think so when I get back I was more interested, you know, in, in being a good son. So I didn't have to go back to Kansas (laughter). But, you know, what I mean, I was turning eighteen I didn't know what the hell I was gonna do. I hadn't gotten into any colleges I just knew that everybody else was going to college and doing something. I needed to do something, and my stepfather was moving out to California. And so sounded good to me, so I was ready to go to California too; that's what I did after high school.$And then deregulation happened, and it's called the "duopoly rule" so now you can own an AM and an FM, two AMs and two FMs in a market. And (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Did you see that as an opportunity or?$$I've always did, every time there was an opportunity, I've always wanted to make the company bigger. And, and always, you know, looked for opportunities to, you know, times to do it. And so, you know, when that happened start looking around Baltimore [Maryland] to see if we could buy. We had two competitors at the time and, and one was the leading black radio station owned by Summit Communications call the BXYV or V103. It sold, and we didn't buy it but we end up buying our other competitor was owned by United Broadcasting they own WERQ [Baltimore, Maryland], 92Q is the station, and we bought that for $9 million dollars. And, and there was a big home run, and we actually squeezed the other guy out of the format and that was that was huge. Because when we once we squeezed, once we got ERQ, and really put the pressure on we started doing really start doing well in Baltimore [Maryland], making a bunch of money. And then we focused on buying our competitor in Washington [D.C.]. The station WKYS [WKYS-FM, Washington, D.C.], which was owned by Burt Lee and Skip Finley in those guys' 'cause NBC, had sold it to a minority group when they had some big merger, and they had it divest. And we knew Skip, Skip was a good friend of the family's and they, you know, needed to sell at the time, and they did the right thing decided they were going to sell it to somebody black. And so they called us we're the competitor. Washington our first station WMMJ [Majic 102.3, Washington, D.C.] was still doing great, and so we bought WKYS four $34 million dollars, which at that time was the biggest deal ever done between two black people.$$And what year was this?$$Ninety, 1995.$$Um-hm.

Cathy Hughes

Radio maven Cathy Hughes was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1947. Beginning her career in radio in 1969, Hughes’ first position was with KOWH, a black radio station in Omaha. Her successes there prompted the Howard University School of Communications to offer her a position as a lecturer and as Assistant to the Dean of Communications.

In 1973, Hughes was named general sales manager to WHUR-FM in Washington, D.C, and by 1975 was hired as the general manager of the station. Under her guidance, WHUR-FM, which had been struggling along with $300,000 in annual sales revenues, increased its annual revenues to more than $3.5 million. In 1978, Hughes left WHUR for WYCB Radio, where she served as the vice president and general manager of the station.

Hughes and her husband at the time, Dewey Hughes, decided they wanted to buy their own radio station in 1979, and after being rejected by thirty-two banks, they found a lender. With their loan, they purchased WOL, a small Washington, D.C. station and Radio One was born. While Hughes wanted a talk format for the station, the bank was pressing for music. A compromise was reached permitting Hughes to have a morning talk show program that was followed by music programming throughout the day.

Hughes’ marriage ended shortly after purchasing the station and she began her path as a single mother. She purchased her husband’s share in the station, but hard times soon forced she and her son, Alfred, to give up their apartment and move into the station to make ends meet. Over time, however, the station began turning a profit, largely due to the success of her talk show.

Since the early days of being a station owner, Hughes’ rise has been remarkable. Today, Radio One owns 65 radio stations throughout every major market in the country, making the company the largest black-owned radio chain in the nation. In January of 2004, Hughes launched TV One, a cable television channel targeted at the African American community.

Today, Hughes has the distinction of being the first African American woman to head a media company publicly traded on the U.S. Stock Exchange, and she continues to serve as Chairperson of Radio One.

Accession Number

A2004.171

Sex

Female

Interview Date

9/21/2004 |and| 3/2/2005

Last Name

Hughes

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Sacred Heart Elementary School

Duchesne Academy Of The Sacred Heart

University of Nebraska-Omaha

Harvard University

University of Chicago

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Cathy

Birth City, State, Country

Omaha

HM ID

HUG04

Favorite Season

All Seasons

State

Nebraska

Favorite Vacation Destination

Home

Favorite Quote

It Is Not Enough For You To Do Your Very Best. You Must Do What Is Required Of The Situation.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

4/22/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

All Food

Short Description

Broadcast chief executive Cathy Hughes (1947 - ) is the founder of Radio One, the nation's largest black-owned radio chain, and TV One, which features programming aimed at African American audiences. Hughes is the first African American woman to head a media company that is publicly traded on the U.S. Stock Exchange.

Employment

Howard University

WHUR Radio

WYCB Radio

WOL Radio

TV One

Favorite Color

Earth Tones

Timing Pairs
0,0:1000,21:1800,53:2360,61:5080,113:8092,136:8668,147:9316,158:9604,163:10324,175:10684,181:11476,195:12124,206:12484,212:13564,230:13996,237:14284,242:14788,250:15148,256:17452,301:18388,315:18892,323:19612,338:21052,364:21628,374:23212,398:23932,410:24580,421:28277,431:28622,437:29174,446:29726,464:39113,566:39458,572:40217,586:46210,661:46648,668:47159,676:48473,697:48984,705:49495,713:50079,721:51393,743:51977,751:55627,830:57598,867:57890,872:58401,880:58985,888:60883,924:62197,936:65409,977:66066,987:77539,1103:78088,1115:78393,1121:79369,1141:79796,1149:80162,1156:80589,1180:82602,1219:82907,1225:88136,1288:88444,1293:90215,1319:90754,1331:91139,1337:91755,1347:93680,1392:94604,1406:95066,1413:96298,1432:97222,1449:97915,1459:104118,1535:107448,1569:109150,1595:109594,1602:110852,1620:111370,1628:111666,1633:111962,1638:112480,1647:122830,1757:123230,1763:125150,1801:130568,1858:131656,1877:134920,1966:137608,2024:141128,2105:146631,2159:153374,2206:153642,2211:154312,2225:155920,2268:156389,2280:156724,2286:157662,2305:157997,2312:158332,2318:158667,2324:159136,2333:161280,2371:162352,2405:162687,2414:163022,2420:166314,2447:166800,2454:169311,2502:169716,2508:172065,2548:172470,2554:172875,2560:175224,2603:175710,2610:176277,2618:184320,2692:184584,2697:186498,2762:188016,2799:198656,2997:198980,3002:201086,3051:202058,3067:202463,3074:208781,3198:210239,3220:210725,3228:213236,3271:213560,3276:214046,3283:215342,3302:220063,3311:220560,3320:221696,3338:225956,3405:226595,3421:227092,3429:229932,3495:236962,3583:239014,3628:240914,3662:246246,3732:247038,3746:256110,3893:261184,3984:261408,3989:261632,3994:262192,4006:262752,4018:265104,4086:265664,4097:267232,4135:267568,4143:269752,4188:270032,4194:270536,4205:270760,4210:273560,4215$0,0:276,60:828,67:3220,93:5188,106:6616,128:7120,135:7960,148:8296,153:8716,160:9388,170:13504,227:14764,246:16108,273:16444,279:21736,358:22156,363:22660,370:23080,376:30602,435:30866,440:31262,448:31658,456:32450,470:35816,535:36542,547:37268,561:42878,703:43142,708:44132,725:46046,770:46310,775:46706,782:59993,850:60421,868:60956,874:61491,880:65112,904:68751,935:69123,940:71541,977:79900,1043:80248,1048:80770,1055:82771,1084:83380,1092:83989,1101:84772,1113:85207,1119:86686,1138:87730,1149:88165,1154:89383,1174:90079,1182:90775,1191:91297,1200:91819,1209:92254,1215:92602,1220:92950,1225:93733,1239:98750,1244:100670,1278:104610,1321:105066,1328:105674,1338:106282,1352:108410,1394:108866,1401:109398,1411:118594,1608:119354,1619:125520,1635:127220,1647:127540,1653:127988,1661:128372,1668:129770,1681:133130,1733:133886,1745:134726,1757:135818,1771:136154,1776:136658,1784:137414,1792:138254,1803:139094,1813:143042,1878:143462,1884:143966,1891:147653,1926:148018,1933:148602,1942:149113,1953:151157,1993:151595,2001:155640,2044:157880,2087:159210,2114:160120,2131:160470,2137:160750,2142:161030,2147:161310,2152:161590,2157:162360,2174:162710,2180:163200,2189:163900,2202:164880,2226:165230,2231:167610,2280:168870,2340:169500,2351:169850,2357:170760,2372:172230,2402:177482,2423:178535,2438:184772,2557:191270,2661
DAStories

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Slating of Cathy Hughes' interview

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Cathy Hughes lists her favorites

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Cathy Hughes describes her father's family background

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Cathy Hughes describes her father's education and career

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Cathy Hughes recalls her father's accounting practice

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Cathy Hughes recalls moving to Washington, D.C.

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Cathy Hughes describes her paternal grandparents' lives, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Cathy Hughes describes her paternal grandparents' lives, pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 9 - Cathy Hughes reflects upon the need to preserve African American history

Tape: 10 Story: 10 - Cathy Hughes describes her mother's family background

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Cathy Hughes describes her maternal grandfather's education

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Cathy Hughes recalls her maternal grandparents' founding of Piney Woods Country Life School

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Cathy Hughes recalls her mother's estrangement from her grandfather

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Cathy Hughes recalls her maternal grandfather's life and service

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Cathy Hughes recalls her maternal grandfather's appearance on television

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Cathy Hughes recalls her grandfather's interview for Johnson Publishing

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Cathy Hughes recalls dinners at her grandfather's home

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Cathy Hughes describes African American women's sacrifices for their community

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Cathy Hughes describes Piney Woods Country Life School's disciplinary policy

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Cathy Hughes describes her mother's personality

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Cathy Hughes describes her mother's career with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Cathy Hughes recalls her mother's career with the Omaha Symphony

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Cathy Hughes describes her mother's connections in the music industry

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Cathy Hughes recalls her mother's lessons in giving, pt. 1

Tape: 12 Story: 8 - Cathy Hughes recalls her mother's lessons in giving, pt. 2

Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Cathy Hughes describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 13 Story: 2 - Cathy Hughes recalls her mother's community activism

Tape: 13 Story: 3 - Cathy Hughes recalls being arrested in Omaha, Nebraska

Tape: 13 Story: 4 - Cathy Hughes recalls growing up in a closely-knit community

Tape: 13 Story: 5 - Cathy Hughes recalls her early years living in Omaha, Nebraska

Tape: 13 Story: 6 - Cathy Hughes describes her mother's service with the youth

Tape: 13 Story: 7 - Cathy Hughes describes her family's life in the projects in Omaha

Tape: 13 Story: 8 - Cathy Hughes remembers moving to Piney Woods, Mississippi

Tape: 13 Story: 9 - Cathy Hughes recalls her schooling in Omaha, Nebraska

Tape: 13 Story: 10 - Cathy Hughes describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Omaha

Tape: 14 Story: 1 - Cathy Hughes describes the sights and smells of her childhood

Tape: 14 Story: 2 - Cathy Hughes recalls her rebellious nature as a child

Tape: 14 Story: 3 - Cathy Hughes recalls becoming pregnant as a teenager

Tape: 14 Story: 4 - Cathy Hughes recalls filing for divorce from her first husband

Tape: 14 Story: 5 - Cathy Hughes describes how her son's birth changed her perspective on life

Tape: 14 Story: 6 - Cathy Hughes recalls her independence as a young, single mother

Tape: 14 Story: 7 - Cathy Hughes recalls her decision to relocate to Washington, D.C.

Tape: 14 Story: 8 - Cathy Hughes recalls accepting a position at Howard University's School of Communications

Tape: 15 Story: 1 - Cathy Hughes describes her role as a community activist at Howard University

Tape: 15 Story: 2 - Cathy Hughes recalls her challenges as the general manager of WHUR Radio

Tape: 15 Story: 3 - Cathy Hughes remembers resigning from Howard University

Tape: 15 Story: 4 - Cathy Hughes recalls her innovations in radio programming at Howard University

Tape: 15 Story: 5 - Cathy Hughes recalls how WHUR Radio was licensed to Howard University

Tape: 15 Story: 6 - Cathy Hughes talks about her creativity as a radio programmer

Tape: 15 Story: 7 - Cathy Hughes recalls her early experiences of radio

Tape: 16 Story: 1 - Cathy Hughes recalls her educational opportunities at Howard University's WHUR Radio

Tape: 16 Story: 2 - Cathy Hughes describes her experience at Howard University's WHUR Radio

Tape: 16 Story: 3 - Cathy Hughes describes the segregated community of Washington, D.C.

Tape: 16 Story: 4 - Cathy Hughes describes her experience at WYCB Radio

Tape: 16 Story: 5 - Cathy Hughes recalls the reason for WOL Radio's distress sale

Tape: 16 Story: 6 - Cathy Hughes recalls her bid to purchase WOL Radio with Dewey Hughes

Tape: 16 Story: 7 - Cathy Hughes recalls purchasing WOL Radio in 1979 with the help of Herb Fame

Tape: 16 Story: 8 - Cathy Hughes recalls her first night at the WOL Radio station

Tape: 17 Story: 1 - Cathy Hughes recalls meeting her chaplain, Reverend Mozelle J. Fuller

Tape: 17 Story: 2 - Cathy Hughes recalls her chaplain, Reverend Mozelle J. Fuller

Tape: 17 Story: 3 - Cathy Hughes recalls her business mentor Skip Finley

Tape: 17 Story: 4 - Cathy Hughes recalls her hardships during the early years of owning WOL Radio

Tape: 17 Story: 5 - Cathy Hughes recalls hiring an accountant for WOL Radio

Tape: 17 Story: 6 - Cathy Hughes recalls the first time WOL Radio made a profit

Tape: 17 Story: 7 - Cathy Hughes recalls acquiring her second radio station

Tape: 17 Story: 8 - Cathy Hughes reflects upon her sacrifices to expand Radio One

Tape: 17 Story: 9 - Cathy Hughes reflects upon the success of Radio One and the launch of TV One

Tape: 18 Story: 1 - Cathy Hughes recalls acquiring a second radio station, Majic 102.3

Tape: 18 Story: 2 - Cathy Hughes recalls expanding Radio One into Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 18 Story: 3 - Cathy Hughes recalls purchasing Radio One of Atlanta

Tape: 18 Story: 4 - Cathy Hughes describes Radio One's expansion

Tape: 18 Story: 5 - Cathy Hughes recalls the establishment of TV One

Tape: 18 Story: 6 - Cathy Hughes recalls her son renaming her company Radio One

Tape: 18 Story: 7 - Cathy Hughes recalls her son's education at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School

Tape: 18 Story: 8 - Cathy Hughes recalls the initial public offering of Radio One in 1999

Tape: 18 Story: 9 - Cathy Hughes reflects upon her relationship with her son

Tape: 18 Story: 10 - Cathy Hughes describes securing her first loan for Radio One

Tape: 18 Story: 11 - Cathy Hughes describes her loan payment strategies

Tape: 18 Story: 12 - Cathy Hughes reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 18 Story: 13 - Cathy Hughes reflects upon her hopes for the African American community

DASession

2$2

DATape

15$18

DAStory

4$8

DATitle
Cathy Hughes recalls her innovations in radio programming at Howard University
Cathy Hughes recalls the initial public offering of Radio One in 1999
Transcript
I created for Howard University [Washington, D.C.] a program called the Quiet Storm, a format that almost got me fired. Ultimately, it went on to become the most successful, urban format in the history of black radio. It was on nearly five hundred radio stations at one time. I tried to get Howard University to license that. By now, they would have generated billions, with a B, not millions; billions of dollars in revenue. Radio stations named their whole station the Quiet Storm and did my format 24/7. I then tried to convince Howard to do a black Muzak, which still has not been done to this day. Howard was building a new hospital. And one of my fellow faculty members had been the highest ranking African American and the only African American actually with the Gallup Poll. So he knew how to do polls. He was a black pollster. So we did a poll of four hundred African American professionals, doctors and lawyers and other professionals, real estate agents, insurance executives. We asked them, number one, Leroy [ph.] said to me--that was the gentleman who was the pollster's name, that he had never seen it, 84 return, percent return rate, 84 percent of the four hundred people we polled returned their questionnaires. They were willing at this time, which was how many decades ago, to pay up to hundred and fifty dollars a month for the service. We described it as a black Muzak. Howard University had the equipment. When Katharine Graham, and The Washington Post gave WHUR [WHUR Radio, Washington, D.C.] to Howard University--WHUR, W-Howard University Radio. It had before that been WTOP-FM Radio. When they gave the station to Howard, they gave the equipment for a sub-channel. Muzak is sub channel. Muzak is actually an FM radio station on a sub channel. We had the equipment. All Howard had to do was say yes. They were already wiring the hospital. Every room in the Howard University Hospital [Washington, D.C.] has radio and television already wired in. All I had to do was sit the transmitter in the basement and bring the signal up. So there was no additional cost. All they had to do is say yes. They said no. Here we have a 84 percent respondent rate. We have people saying that they'd be willing to pay Howard up to hundred and fifty dollars a month to have a black Muzak service, because by now, my Quiet Storm was so successful, they knew it would be like the Quiet Storm. But even today, it hasn't been done. How many black professionals in the whole country would love to have a beautiful, black music service being pumped in. Now, Muzak is no longer popular because we got CDs. It kind of got--technology kind of kicked it out the back door. I think it wouldn't have been kicked out the back door as quickly if there had of been a black version of it. I think that white folks would have gussied it up a little bit. Remember, it used to be called elevator music[AB2].$$That's right.$$But they still have different forms of it. It's just called different things. When you go in grocery stores now, you have a version. They even do their own commercials. "You're listening to the Giant Food music network," you know. Now, you have satellite radio. You have so many other things. So, by then I realized that Howard University did not have the level of understanding and appreciation for my innovations and ideas that God was blessing me with that I was sharing with them. And I was not trying to get any--it wasn't for me. I wasn't trying to get anything out of it. It was for them. It would have generated--in hindsight, I now understand. Other than the bookstore, they had never had any type of revenue-generating ventures. They didn't know about being in business, and remember, I said earlier, they were government funded. So they were accustomed to filling out requisitions, sending it to the federal government, getting the money. And they went through a lot of--as any, anybody would, all of a sudden they have hundreds of millions of dollars put in a bank account in their name. They had to establish accounting procedures and, so they really didn't have an understanding, a time or a commitment to the radio station at that time.$Alfred [Hughes' son, HistoryMaker Alfred Liggins, III] then became like a tutor, a mentor, a teacher. He walked me through the entire process, and even when I still had reservations, he did a high-yield bond offering to run a test balloon up, a test run on our management team, because one of my last reservations was, we run real slim and trim, even now. Wall Street likes that, but my managers wear a lot of hats. And I was like, will they be able to withstand the rigors of the reporting required of a public corp--publicly-held corporation which are far greater now with Sarbanes-Oxley [Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002]. But even back then, the rigors were quite strenuous. So he did the high-yield bond offering to test himself and our staff, and they came through with flying colors. May 19th, Martin--Malcolm X's birthday, 1995, we're in New York [New York]. We're going public. And I'm in the bathroom regurgitating as if I were pregnant. That's how nervous I was, because right before our ticker came across the board, one of the Wall Street analysts said to me, "Do you realize that you will be the first corporation in the history of Wall Street headed by an African American female? This has never been done before." And that reaction of me getting sick to my stomach was almost like being pregnant and giving birth. I realized that this was bigger than me and Alfred having growth capital. This was bigger--this was me really lifting the bar for black womanhood, (laughter) you know. I almost wanted to sing, "I am woman," (laughter) you know. I needed an anthem. And it made such an incredible difference. So many of our staff members became millionaires because of the friend--friends and family list. So many of our friends and acquaintances were able to achieve incredible financial success. We opened at twenty-four and went to ninety-two in our first twelve months. We then split, and it was such a glorious time, that first year. Since then, the sector has been so depressed. All radio properties have been undervalued. And particularly when you're last in and you're African American, but we think that that will turn around. We have never missed a projection. Everything we have told Wall Street since day one has been the reality of the operation of my company [Radio One, Lanham, Maryland]. And that's why we're considered the best. We are now the seventh largest broadcasting corporation in America, and we plan to be the sixth, the fifth, the fourth, the third, the second and who knows? We might bump Clear Channel [Clear Channel Communications, Inc.] out of the number one spot before God finishes blessing us.

Melody Spann-Cooper

As president and general manager of Chicago's WVON-AM, Melody Spann-Cooper heads the only African American-owned radio station in the nation's third-largest market. She is the first black woman in Chicago to hold this distinction.

In 1999, Spann-Cooper purchased a controlling interest in the Midway Broadcasting Company, the parent company of WVON, and was named Chairman of the Board. With the purchase, Spann-Cooper overcame the odds in a sector where minority ownership of commercial stations has fallen since the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Reform Act favoring media conglomerates. Under Spann-Cooper's leadership as program director, WVON's revenues skyrocketed from $700,000 in 1994 to $2.4 million in 2002. Her extensive involvement in the community, along with WVON's high quality coverage of issues vital to African Americans' lives, has been crucial to the station's success.

Spann-Cooper was educated in Chicago Catholic institutions from elementary school through Loyola University, where she earned her B.A. in criminal justice. But Spann-Cooper's education in radio began closer to home - on the knee of her father, legendary Chicago disc jockey Pervis Spann, known in radio circles as "the Blues Man." With her father as mentor, Spann-Cooper began working at WVON at age fifteen, earning a full-time job as an on-air radio personality in 1980. In 1986, Spann-Cooper was named news director, and in 1994 she became president and general manager, a position she still holds in addition to chairman of the board and station owner. She vows to continue the march forward at the station, setting her sights on obtaining a twenty-four-hour broadcast license and expanding her public affairs and cultural programming.

In addition to extensive community service work, Spann-Cooper is a much sought-after panelist, political commentator and frequent guest on public radio and television talk shows such as CNN's Crossfire. She is a past vice president of broadcast affairs for the Chicago Association of Black Journalists.

Accession Number

A2003.036

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/4/2003

Last Name

Spann-Cooper

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Mother Mcauley Liberal Arts High School

Loyola University Chicago

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Melody

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

SPA02

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

No

Favorite Season

Christmas

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

8/8/1964

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Soul Food

Short Description

Broadcast chief executive Melody Spann-Cooper (1964 - ) owned WVON Radio in Chicago

Employment

WVON Radio

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
0,0:605,7:4022,41:4462,47:9126,150:17529,295:21461,355:22084,364:32424,534:40279,660:42957,679:44697,716:48090,782:48786,791:49656,806:52614,893:52962,898:54180,915:62331,993:62884,1002:64859,1046:65333,1053:65965,1064:67308,1089:67861,1098:72220,1104:91422,1294:92082,1300:93006,1308:93595,1381:93895,1440:94195,1445:113906,1642:114900,1650:117572,1672:118068,1681:118936,1697:133630,1937:134092,1946:137674,1974:141044,2010:141446,2018:156300,2223:156780,2231:162060,2273:168155,2359:168423,2366:169428,2388:171103,2429:176125,2509:177315,2544:177825,2551:180290,2608:181735,2635:184670,2645:189572,2761:193700,2827:197901,2862:198873,2877:200736,2915:206976,3008:216755,3249:224920,3411:225300,3417:227656,3456:232626,3533:233400,3543:234518,3565:235464,3578:241140,3719:243204,3745:250432,3786:251089,3796:255177,3903:255761,3913:256126,3922:256491,3928:258754,3980:259338,3996:264080,4041$0,0:1385,123:22682,400:25646,447:26026,453:32258,601:35530,612:37834,673:38282,681:40458,729:47910,851:48210,856:58525,1026:60020,1048:63508,1094:63903,1103:64456,1115:64930,1125:72120,1253:73640,1280:75996,1319:76376,1325:82532,1481:82912,1487:83596,1500:89670,1532:90150,1539:92390,1578:93270,1591:112754,1827:113623,1843:115124,1887:116388,1923:121918,2060:142280,2380:145563,2469:146166,2491:153724,2548:164282,2746:166662,2795:167682,2811:170334,2878:174754,2993:177882,3089:178290,3096:178630,3102:192240,3279:192528,3284:195984,3370:198072,3413:198792,3433:200520,3505:216574,3721:216870,3726:218794,3763:220348,3792:231150,3937:231582,3945:238062,4124:244901,4195:245630,4206:248384,4303:248870,4346:258624,4446:260346,4481:279116,4766:281787,4797:286260,4850:288678,4899:293726,4955:295940,4970
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Melody Spann-Cooper's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Melody Spann-Cooper lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes why her father, HistoryMaker Pervis Spann, migrated to Chicago

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Melody Spann-Cooper talks about her paternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Melody Spann-Cooper talks about her parents' home town, Itta Bena, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes her father, HistoryMaker Pervis Spann

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes why her father missed her birth

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes her childhood household and her upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes why she converted to Catholicism

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes her religious background, and why her parents enrolled her in Catholic school

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes the type of student she was

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Melody Spann-Cooper talks about the nuns who influenced her in grade school

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes her childhood personality, interests and activities

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes her experiences attending Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes her father's business savvy

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Melody Spann-Cooper talks about her dream of being a news anchor, and trying to please her father, HistoryMaker Pervis Spann

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Melody Spann-Cooper talks about iconic voices of the 1960s and 1970s

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes her social life as a high school student

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes how changes in her social circle shaped her college experienced

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes her experiences as a student at Loyola University Chicago in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Melody Spann-Cooper remembers Mayor Harold Washington's mayoral campaign

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes how HistoryMaker Dr. Carol L. Adams influenced her as a student at Loyola University Chicago in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes working part-time at Northwestern Hospital after graduating from Loyola University Chicago in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Melody Spann-Cooper talks about the history of WVON

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Melody Spann-Cooper talks about WVON being sold to Globetrotter Communications in 1971

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes how her father, HistoryMaker Pervis Spann, and HistoryMaker Wesley South, retained the 1450 frequency after the sale of WVON

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes WVON in the 1980s

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes being mentored by HistoryMaker Wesley South

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes how she became president and general manager of WVON

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes how she became owner of WVON

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Melody Spann-Cooper talks about building working relationships with her father, HistoryMaker Pervis Spann, and her mentor, HistoryMaker Wesley South

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Melody Spann-Cooper talks about increasing the financial stability of WVON, and engaging with the community

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Melody Spann-Cooper talks about the staff at WVON

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Melody Spann-Cooper talks about WVON personalities Cliff Kelley and Monique Caradine

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Melody Spann-Cooper talks about making WVON inclusive

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Melody Spann-Cooper talks about the "WVON Family"

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Melody Spann-Cooper talks about the significance of African American talk radio

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes what drives her work ethic

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Melody Spann-Cooper talks about WVON's decision to support HistoryMaker Roland Burris over Paul Vallas during the 1998 Illinois gubernatorial race

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Melody Spann-Cooper comments on the African American community's need to make informed political decisions

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes WVON's role in the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes how WVON responds to the political landscape

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes developing programming with her staff

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Melody Spann-Cooper shares her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes moments of which she is proudest

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Melody Spann-Cooper describes her goals for WVON

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Melody Spann-Cooper reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Melody Spann-Cooper talks about how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Melody Spann-Cooper narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$1

DAStory

8$7

DATitle
Melody Spann-Cooper describes how she became owner of WVON
Melody Spann-Cooper describes her father, HistoryMaker Pervis Spann
Transcript
We got there and, that's what happened. After that, Wesley [South, HM] continued to sue dad [Pervis Spann, HM], after that. The, the station was in receivership of the court. Wesley knew that I would protect it. And Pervis [Spann, HM] had faith in me. And they agreed to allow me to be the receiver. And I didn't want what was going on at [W]VON to turn out like the [Chicago] Defender. I didn't want to play this out in the media. Nobody even knew we were in here fighting like we were, that the station was in receivership, because that hurts business. So my thing was always to make it look good. You know, whatever was going on I hid it from the public, and hid it from the--our clients, you know, who support us financially--the advertisers. So they didn't know the internal fight that was going on. It wasn't played out in the media, like the Defender, thank god. And so we were able to build on just, you know, family owned, doing a good job, here for the community, that, that was always what I wanted to put out there. And that's what I was able to do. It remained that way until nineteen ninety--wow, these years get away so fast. Nineteen--what year is this, 2003? In 1999--had it been 1999, maybe 1999, the court decided that--might have been 2000 one of them--the court decided that they were not going to continue to hold on to this corporation, and that either Wesley had to buy it, Pervis had to buy it, or they were going to sell it. I mean, I sat in this courtroom--I might have had on this same suit--I was devastated. I'm not lying, I just got numb. I didn't sleep for like three days. So, the courts decided that it was up to the minority shareholders to decide who they would sell it to. And they choose Wesley. And I love Mr. South, don't get me wrong, but, VON had changed since he had been here in '94 [1994]. It was a different station. I had taken it to another level. And my biggest fear was that he wouldn't understand where it was. And he would take it back to where it was. But I sat patiently and waited. He had like, thirty days to, to do the deal. And I sat back and I waited patiently, and he didn't do it. He, he just didn't come up with what he needed to come up with to get the job--the deal done. And, earlier in this court proceeding, the judge had even said, "You know, Melody had done such a great job. Everybody seems to respect her job. Why don't you sell it to her?" And they kind of washed over that because both of them wanted control of it, of course. But the bottom line is the judge ended up awarding it to me, if I could come up with the necessary financial obligation, and I could have the station, and I did. And so I got it. But, Wesley is here, Pervis is here and I'm here. I always wanted it to be like that. No one--I didn't want anybody to be out of the equation, because no one ever had to be. Their fight was over control; mine was to make it work. I don't mind sharing, I really don't. I just want it to work, I wanted to be here for the community. And if Mr. South wants to take credit for it, he can. If Pervis wants to take credit for it, he can. If people want to give me credit for it, they can. It doesn't make any difference, just as long as it's here.$$So Wesley South is still associated with (unclear) (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yes. He's the chairman emeritus. He's on the board. He comes down here often. He helps me with any project I ask him to help me with. We have a great relationship. It's, its sustained damage, cause if he's fighting for control and I purchased it, of course, he might feel like I undermined him. But our--I just did what I thought was best for me, and for the company. But we've since repaired that. Dad's fine, he's here as president emeritus. So they both--we've got an open door policy. Whatever they want to do they can do. We all get along. I make the final decision, I make them part of it though. I make--I want them to be part of it, you know, 'cause it's theirs too.$Okay. Now, can you tell us something about your father [Pervis Spann, HM], you know, cause we're going to ignore the fact that we already have him on--$$Right, okay.$$--but, what are your memories of your father and what's he like, and you know, what kind of things do you remember about him (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Oh okay. I remember--when I was born, which is in 1964, my dad was in the prime of his good guy days, as being on the--a radio personality in the City of Chicago (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) (Unclear).$$--at WVON, um-hm. And WVON was the voice of the Negro. It was the number one black oriented station in Chicago, and oftentimes number one station overall in Chicago. So all of them were really popular. And, my dad came on at midnight, so I couldn't hear him very often 'cause of course, I'd be in the bed. But, I just remember always that some kind of way my dad was in the entertainment business, because we knew a lot of famous people. We had access to a lot of famous people. Famous people would call the house often. And, I remember that my dad was never at home. As a matter of fact, people often thought that my mom [Lovie Spann] and dad were divorced. My dad was not a very family-oriented man. We did very few things, we didn't camp, we didn't do family trips--we've never been out of town as a family unless it was to a funeral or something. But just, you know, vacation time--he never took vacations with us. And that was my mom's role, was to just take care of the kids. He always provided for us, I mean, we, we had an abundance of things. But--and I don't fault him for that, cause I think he was doing what he thought a man was supposed to do; which was to take care of his family. But, not a lot of, of parental guidance, or, or involvement with dad. And it was special when he came home, whenever he would come home. He might come home to eat. And I felt special when I would go hang out with him at the Burning Spear. But he, he--$$Now, what was the Burning Spear?$$The Burning Spear was a club on 55th and State that my dad owned; and that's where all the entertainers would come. And I just remember running through the Burning Spear--always a lot of people there, to get on the stage. They had a stage that raised--it was a raised stage. And I, I always would go turn the switch so I could see the stage come up and down. He used to do talent shows, and I would go down and watch some talent shows with him. I'll never forget one night the show--I was with him, and the club was about to open--he had forgotten that I was there. And my Uncle Everett, my dad's brother, lived in the club in the basement. He was the bartender. He was the head bar master. And I was behind the stage--behind the bar, the front bar, washing dishes, washing glasses, 'cause people were drinking. And I just remember people coming in. And I was like, "Oh wow, I get to stay tonight," you know, cause I would see my mom get dressed sometimes and go down to the club to see B. B. King [HM] or Johnny Taylor. I mean, all the big people would come to the Burning Spear. And he looked over at me like, as to say, "You still here?" And he had somebody take me home. But I wanted to stay there, 'cause you would hear so much about it. I know I wasn't old enough and--but, I mean, that's what he did. And I, I recall when I was little--I'm not kidding, every drawer in the house that we went in was stacked with money. It was just stacked with money! I don't know if he wouldn't take it to the bank, or if he didn't know (unclear), he didn't want anybody to know he had it, but (laughter) I just remember every drawer you'd go in to get something, and it was just money; 'cause he was making a lot of money at that time. I think that was--the Regal had come before, but the Burning Spear, I mean, if you get four or five hundred people at night, or whatever, you know, but, that's, that's what I remember about the early days of my father. My father only whipped me twice in my life. My mother was the disciplinarian, but when it got out of control, she, she could always use this, "You wait 'til your daddy gets home." The, the great part about it, we didn't know when daddy was coming home (laughter), or if daddy was coming home; you know, so, that gave us a little break from that. But, I remember those times. He was--I remember my brother graduating from 8th grade, daddy never would be able to stay at any graduation; he'd come, he'd wave and let you know he was there, and then he was out the door. So, he wasn't very--he wasn't a full-time father, at all. I don't think we suffered much from it, but--and I think he was doing the best he could. But, we didn't really have a lot of, you know, we didn't spend a lot of time together when we were younger. I have an older brother, I think, who probably suffered the most from that. But that's what I remember about my younger years with dad.

Pervis Spann

Born in Itta Bena, Mississippi, on August 16, 1932, Pervis Spann distinguished himself as a broadcaster, exposing generations to the blues.

Spann worked hard from an early age, caring for his mother after she suffered a stroke. At age 14, he managed the Dixie Theater, a local all-black theater. In 1949, he moved with his mother and sister to Battle Creek, Michigan. However, Spann soon left to work in Gary, Indiana. Spann enlisted in the Army toward the end of the Korean War. After completing his service, he moved to Chicago and settled down. He became interested in broadcasting and attended the Midway Television Institute and the Midwestern Broadcasting School on the G.I. Bill.

In the 1950s, Spann was granted a four-hour overnight time slot on WOPA. In 1960, he organized his first concert, showcasing B.B. King and Junior Parker. In 1963, Phil and Leonard Chess bought the radio station, which became WVON, a 24-hour blues station. Spann became the "all-night blues man." He gained notoriety with an on-air 87-hour "sleepless sit-in," raising money for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Spann widened his sphere of influence during the 1960s, and began managing talented performers such as B.B. King. He booked major acts, including the Jackson 5 and Aretha Franklin. Spann also owned several South Side clubs in Chicago, including the Burning Spear.

In 1975, WVON was sold and changed frequency. Forming a business syndicate with Vernon Jarrett and Wesley South, Spann bought the license to the original frequency in 1979. Listeners to the new station, WXOL, heard an all-blues format and many of the same voices from the old WVON. The station reclaimed the old call letters in 1983. In the 1980s, Spann added another station to his radio empire, WXSS in Memphis. He later sold this station. His focus then turned to building WVON, with his daughter, Melody Spann Cooper, at the helm. He continues his career promoting the blues as the co-host of the popular cable t.v. program "Blues and More."

Accession Number

A2002.010

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

2/8/2002

Last Name

Spann

Maker Category
Organizations
Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

Pervis

Birth City, State, Country

Itta Bena

HM ID

SPA01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Good blues to you.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

8/16/1932

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Broadcast chief executive and radio personality Pervis Spann (1932 - ) was the "all-night blues man" for WVON in the 1960s. Spann later bought the station with Vernon Jarrett and Wesley South. Spann was also a promoter, manager and club owner working with the likes of B.B. King, the Jackson 5, and Aretha Franklin.

Employment

Dixie Theater

WOPA Radio

WVON Radio

WXOL Radio

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:340,10:612,15:1768,56:31247,304:31856,312:35988,342:37260,357:40834,364:41402,373:41828,380:43812,393:64844,583:84647,730:91223,785:92291,799:100228,861:110998,970:111613,976:121832,1150:138040,1343:140844,1368:141208,1382:147030,1466:163366,1632:164950,1671:181895,1961:184631,1972:186560,1990:187200,2000:187600,2006:187920,2011:189530,2016:196415,2093:196910,2099:197999,2113:198890,2129:211118,2296:221065,2400$0,0:335,9:603,14:1139,24:2144,42:5226,139:12690,180:13065,186:13440,192:14115,203:16274,222:17014,234:25080,369:25746,380:26338,389:28040,422:30704,481:31148,488:32406,514:42122,630:42862,641:45674,698:45970,703:55377,788:56590,793:56992,800:57528,810:57863,816:59471,842:62445,866:70765,954:71180,960:71678,967:76936,1036:79081,1100
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Pervis Spann interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Pervis Spann lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Pervis Spann talks about his parents and siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Pervis Spann talks about growing up in Itta Bena, Mississippi in the 1940s

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Pervis Spann talks about meeting entertainer Tex Ritter

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Pervis Spann recalls his personality as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Pervis Spann shares a story about being a job foreman at age sixteen

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Pervis Spann recalls the sights, smells and sounds of his childhood in Itta Bena, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Pervis Spann details influential Southern radio programs from his youth

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Pervis Spann offers impressions of the South of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Pervis Spann talks about his job as a youth and his move to Battle Creek, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Pervis Spann talks about his move to Gary, Indiana and his work in the steel mills with his father

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Pervis Spann recalls his military service during the Korean War

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Pervis Spann details his education at the Midway Television Institute in Chicago

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Pervis Spann reflects on his enduring love for his mother

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Pervis Spann details his early days in radio broadcasting

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Pervis Spann talks about Al Benson and his years at WOPA radio in Chicago

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Pervis Spann discusses his arrangement broadcasting on WOPA and WVON radio simultaneously

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Pervis Spann shares anecdotes about the radio business in Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Pervis Spann recalls his start in the concert promoting business in Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Pervis Spann details his falling out with concert promoter and business partner, Big Bill Hill

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Pervis Spann talks about his relationship with WVON-AM's radio owner, Leonard Chess

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Pervis Spann talks briefly about promoting singer Sam Cooke's last concert

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Pervis Spann details his learning of the concert promoting business

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Pervis Spann shares stories about musicians he's promoted

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Pervis Spann recalls WVON-AM prmotions and events during the 1970s and 1980s

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Pervis Spann talks about WVON-AM's promotion of 'The Good Guys'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Pervis Spann talks briefly about the risks of concert promotion

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Pervis Spann discusses briefly why he bought WVON-AM radio

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

6$7

DATitle
Pervis Spann shares stories about musicians he's promoted
Pervis Spann recalls WVON-AM prmotions and events during the 1970s and 1980s
Transcript
Let's say with some of the talent. Do you have, do you have a favorite like B. B. King story?$$(Laughs) I got one--Johnnie Taylor. I've got some B. B. Kings too. But, you know, Johnnie Taylor. You always got Johnny Taylor. Johnny Taylor--I had a show in Detroit, Michigan. And I had the Dells, the Howlin' Wolf and Johnnie Taylor. And with them, you have a constant battle about who is going to go on stage last. The Dells, or Johnnie Taylor. So what I did, I had planned on putting Howlin' Wolf on stage last. But I hadn't told nobody. 'Cause, you know, it's up to me to send them. So I sent the Howlin' Wolf up before the Dells and Johnnie Taylor. The Howlin' Wolf goes up and little do they know, that the Howlin' Wolf is more popular than either one of them. He's in that what you call underground blues circuit. And they got in there. So a creative genius--"The Howlin' Wolf!" And I brought him on that stage. And he came out on the stage. Every white person in there stood up when the Howlin' Wolf hit that stage. Every white--then the black folks started (laughs) looking around at them. All these white folks. Then they began to get up. "Well maybe these white folks got something going here." They began to get up. And the Howlin' Wolf, from the time he left that stage, everybody in the entire--I had 10,000 people there standing up with, "More! More! More!" Well, we gotta get them off the stage. I went back and I asked them other guys, I says, "Y'all sure you wanna go on?" (laughs) 'Cause everybody was standing up applauding, having fun. And after the Howlin' Wolf left the stage, the show was over. Who ever just went up, just went up. You know, just--The folks didn't pay them no attention no way. So that's the thing you got to look at when you're putting on a lot of shows. And take a lot of them old blues artists, you think, "This ain't nothing. We're gonna run over him." No. I've seen it happen too much. Too much. They wanna close the house down when people like the Wolf sing, Muddy Waters. Oh Muddy Waters, Muddy Waters. If Muddy Waters get up before you, you might as well not go on stage. 'Cause he done took the house. He done tore the house up. Muddy Waters will do that.$$Now what about James Brown? You have a famous James Brown story?$$No.$$No. You've known James Brown a long time.$$(Simultaneously) You've got enough.$So let's talk about the importance of the station [WVON-AM, Chicago, Illinois] during that period. Why was it--What was it doing that was important?$$Well, it was just doing what black folks thought it should do. It was playing the music folks and hearing the music that they wanted to here. They were dancing and--Herb Kent was giving all the hops and things every Friday and Saturday night. Herb Kent giving hops at different places. Pervis Spann and [E.] Rodney Jones were giving concerts all around. And then Rodney a lot of times would just do--I'd be doing something at the Regal [Theater, Chicago, Illinois]. Rodney would do a record hop on the West Side. We--the city [Chicago] was just opened up for whatever we were doing. You know, what really stopped the--stopped us from really doing all these things, through the radio station, that old music that they put out there. That old disco stuff. That old disco stuff. That killed the black record sales more or less. If they ever wanna tell the truth about it. If they don't wanna tell the truth about it, then go on back there.