The First Black Radio Station in the USA
It was the summer of 1947 when the first radio station in the United States programmed entirely for the Black community, went on the air.
WDIA was one of only six stations broadcasting out of Memphis at the time and gained popularity after white owners realized that there was a major hole in the market due to nobody broadcasting to the Black community.
As soon as the station flipped to all Black programming & talent, it hit #1 in the ratings.
The huge ratings boost meant that they were able to expand from 250 watts to 50,000 watts, increasing their listenership massively. By 1954, the station was now being heard in Missouri, the Gulf Coast and more. 10% of the Black population in the United States could now listen to WDIA.
WDIA became known for their involvement in the community. Former WDIA DJ A.C. Williams created the 'Goodwill Fund' in 1954 which initially raised money for transportation to help disabled Black children get to school.
The fund went on to give out college scholarships, help community little league teams, provide low income housing and more. Throughout the years over $900,000 was raised for the Goodwill Fund. The official station ID was changed to "You're listening to 50,000 Watts of Goodwill, W-D-I-A Memphis"
Music legend, B.B. King got his start at WDIA in 1949, hosting a daily 15 minute show then moving up to afternoon drive. He credits WDIA for helping launch his career and building an audience.
In 1972, WDIA got its first Black General Manager, Chuck Scruggs who served as GM for 12 years.
In 1996, WDIA was purchased by Clear Channel Communications and currently it's owned by iHeart Media and presents themselves as WDIA 1070 AM - The Heart & Soul of Memphis.