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On This Day, Oct 3, 1949: WERD, America’s First Black-owned Radio Station Opens in Atlanta, Georgia

WERD was the 1st black-owned radio station in the United States.

WDIA in Memphis was on the air in 1948 doing black—or Negro as it was called back then—programming, but the owners were not African American.


Jesse B. Blayton Sr., an accountant, bank president, and Atlanta University professor, purchased WERD in 1949 for $50,000. He changed the station format to “black appeal” and hired his son Jesse Jr. as station manager.

“Jockey” Jack Gibson was hired and by 1951 he was the most popular DJ in Atlanta.

The station was housed in the Masonic building on Auburn Avenue, then one of the wealthiest black neighborhoods in the United States. Located in that same building was the headquarters of the newly formed Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr…It has been said that King would beat the roof of the office with a broomstick as a signal to send the microphone down when he wanted to make public addresses.

WERD was at 860 AM. While WDIA had Nat D. Williams, WERD had “Jockey Jack” Gibson, a friend of Blayton from Chicago. Blayton sold the station in 1968.


Written by PH

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