The First “Hardest Working Man In Radio”: Jesse B. Blayton Sr., First Black Man To Own A Radio Station

Written by Rewindingblack

Blacks had been trying to purchase their own radio station since the 1930s. There had been previous radio stations that catered to black audiences however they were owned by whites. However it was not until 1949, that blacks were able to acquire their own radio station. In 1949 a black man by the name of Jesse B. Blayton Sr. acquired a radio station. The name of the radio station was WERD of Atlanta, Georgia. The radio station was previously owned by whites. However, the station was losing money and they had to sell it. Jesse B. Blayton Sr. jumped on the opportunity to purchase it. He then asked his son Jesse B. Blayton Jr to be the manager of the station.  Now for the first time there would be a radio station that not only catered to black listeners but was also owned by black people.

Jesse Sr. believed that the Atlanta area was the best place to start a black owned radio station. He also felt that it was a great fiscal investment. The station was only on from sunrise to sunset, yet it had a fourteen county listening area. It not only featured music but also news, and community service. It was home for some of black radio’s finest announcers. Black artists also made stops by the station to do interviews. The radio station also provided educational programming as well as on-air church services. Much of what was on the radio station was not provided elsewhere for blacks in a similar medium.  In less than six months, the station made more than $18,000.00 in revenue.

The owner Jesse B. Blayton Sr. died in 1977. The station remained on air until Jesse B. Blayton Jr’s death in 1986.  In 1995, Jesse B. Blayton Sr. was inducted into the Museum of Broadcasting’s Radio Hall of Fame.



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