WERD

WERD in Atlanta became the first radio station in America to be owned by an African American when Jesse B. Blayton, a professor at Atlanta University and a bank president, bought it in 1949 and hired his son, Jesse Blayton Jr., as station manager. The 1,000-watt station, purchased for $50,000, was located in the Prince Hall Masons Grand Lodge at 334 Auburn Avenue.
Jesse Blayton Jr. hired veteran disc jockey Jack Gibson as announcer and replaced the rest of the all-white staff with black announcers. The station's "Four Horsemen"—Gibson, Joe Howard, Roosevelt Johnson, and Jimmy Winnington—played music and other programming of interest to black listeners. Gibson was a popular on-air personality, perhaps the city's leading disc jockey at the time. Blayton also hired Ken Knight as program director.
The Masonic lodge that housed WERD was also home to Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) during the 1960s. It has been said that King would bang on the ceiling with a broomstick when he wanted to make a public statement, and the WERD disc jockey upstairs would lower a microphone from the window above.
Blayton Sr. sold the station to white owners in 1968. He remained active in community affairs until his death on September 7, 1977, and was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1995.
close

Loading

Further Reading
William Barlow, Voice Over: The Making of Black Radio (Philadelphia, Pa.: Temple University Press, 1999).
Cite This Article
Etling, Laurence W. "WERD." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 06 March 2013. Web. 28 August 2014.
From Our Home Page
Geographic Regions of Georgia: Overview

The diverse landscapes of Georgia result from geological and climatic forces working throughout time, with some recent direct influence from human activities.

Read more...
James Brown (ca. 1933-2006)

James Brown, who grew up in Augusta, was one of the most influential musicians of the last half of the twentieth century.

Read more...
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with headquarters in Atlanta, has been a key factor in combating many of the hea

Read more...
Atlanta Campaign

The "Atlanta campaign" is the name given by historians to the military operations that took place in north Georgia during the Civ

Read more...
Courtesy of Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries