One Radio Station's Role in the History of the Civil Rights and Peace Movements

     
             Photo Courtesy of the Jacob Stelman Collection, Athenaeum of Philadelphia


Georgie Woods, Rev. Ralph Abernathy-SCLC, WDAS Newsman Ed Bradley-later of CBS News, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., WDAS General Manager Bob Klein, Philadelphia NAACP President Cecil Moore, Esq.
There are more rare pictures of Dr. King
and Coretta Scott King in
...GALLERY  II...

August 28, 1963  one of the world's largest and most profoundly peaceful demonstrations to correct oppression was held in Washington D.C. WDAS Newsman Jim Klash [in bow-tie] is seen with Chet Carmichael [on right] and Georgie Woods [to the left]. Next to George is Dottie Scott of the WDAS traffic department. And next to her, in the light suit, is WDAS DJ  "Bonnie Prince Charlie" Geter. Recalling that historic day, Geter said:

"WDAS sent 13 buses to the 1963 March on Washington. We told our audience- 'if you want to go-we'll take you there.' And however many said they wanted in-that's how many buses were ordered. And WDAS paid for the whole trip-13 buses full. And each bus had a WDAS staffer on board acting as the bus captain. And we pulled up and joined all the hundreds of  thousands of other people... Remarkable how beautifully organized and calm it all was, but so profoundly moving. It was just so amazing." 

Marian Anderson and Mahalia Jackson sang, Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, John  Lewis, Walter Reuther, Whitney Young spoke and Dr. King delivered the finale, "I Have a Dream"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  


Times of great struggle call for actions of great strength and vision.

The station came into being at a crucial time in history.
WDAS was both a participant and a leader in perhaps the world's greatest multi-cultural, multi-racial victory over entrenched oppression.
Under tremendous pressure from all sides, emerges this extraordinary example of Blacks and Whites working together for Justice.
Working together on behalf of Freedom, to benefit all people, to free a nation, an effort that can serve as a beacon throughout the world. An example of what can be done when the humanity and beauty of differing cultures matter more than anything else.  ©


Bob Klein; WDAS attorney, future federal judge, noted author A. Leon Higginbotham; Jeanne Higginbotham; Civil Rights powerhouse Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr.;    George Woods    Circa 1958 

 
Civil Rights icon and baseball superstar Jackie Robinson with WDAS News Director Joe Rainey on The Listening Post 


      
NAACP leadership arrives for a meeting and broadcast August 3, 1965  

NAACP National Director Roy Wilkins, WDAS Award Winning Editorial Director Jim Klash, NAACP-Philadelphia Cecil Moore, Esq. and Bob Klein who served as Moore's board member and NAACP Treasurer, meeting in 1965

      At this time, many people would tell you 'NAACP' stood for the  
          National Association for the Advancement of Cecil's People

    
  
          Cecil Moore, Esq.              and             Malcolm X                                     

While making one of many appearances on WDAS Radio's The Listening Post, Malcolm X tells WDAS News Editor and host Joe Rainey,

"It's good to be back here, Joe. You know I can't get on those other radio stations."

That was more than an allusion to the fact that Malcolm X was not welcome in many places.
It was also a bit of an inside joke.
There were a lot of extra bodies  milling around the station so it wasn't easy getting in the studio that night.

During this particular broadcast, the WDAS studios on Edgeley Drive were surrounded both inside and out by Philadelphia Police and 'civil disobedience' officers. Reliable word had come down through the FBI and others that Malcolm X was going to be assassinated at the radio station. Both overtly and covertly,  one hundred police officers and canine units combed the area around WDAS, staying posted there for hours. An elite squad of marksmen were positioned on the roof and 14 dogs searched the woods. The heavy show of arms had two purposes: find trouble before it happens and create a presence big enough to scare off murderers. 


                                           
Photo from: UPI TELEPHOTO Wire Service--W.Alexander Collection
  Malcolm X arriving at WDAS Radio on the night of December 29, 1964 for   the 'live'  late night  broadcast of The Listening Post with Joe Rainey.  
                                                         
General Manager Bob Klein and  WDAS Vice President and News Director  Joe Rainey made a decision. Despite management's fears for the safety of everyone at the station, Rainey knew how important broadcasts were to Malcolm X. Just then  back from Africa, earlier Mecca, with new visionary ideals, leading his own new organizations;  Malcolm X needed as much  public exposure as possible to boost his influence after breaking with the Nation of Islam under Elijah Muhammad.

So amid an extraordinary police presence in the studio, in the halls, sharpshooters on the WDAS roof and in the bushes--the show went on. 

 All was well in Studio B.

The two men chatted as calmly as usual, with no hint of any death threats or the dramatic backstage safety precautions.

Malcolm X was killed less than two months later in the Audubon Ballroom in New York City.

A partial tape of that WDAS radio broadcast still exists.

Transcripts of  other shows were also found --
                                                                                              --  in the files of the FBI.    

This extraordinary  protection of Malcolm X also became common knowledge when it was covered in all three of Philadelphia's daily newspapers at the time. Looking back at this public discussion of security matters, it might have been a further attempt to guard his life. A signal to the would-be killers and their handlers that too much spotlight was on Malcolm for them to get away with their plans.                                                                                                                                    ©

                  

                     Philadelphia Daily News
                                    December 30, 1964

                 

                  Philadelphia Inquirer
                                                        December 30, 1964

                            


[Circa 1960] Then News Director Joe Rainey in the WDAS lobby conferring with  Assistant GM John Bandy

Joe Rainey's cutting edge news judgment, sense of history, style and guts gave WDAS Radio the indisputable credibility necessary to change the minds of so many. Rainey's relationship with Malcolm X was one amazing example of his many great calls. Joe Rainey was a visionary.

To say that Malcolm X was severely misunderstood in his lifetime is an enormous understatement. The world's embrace of Malcolm X in recent times is not what he experienced himself. He was a man of the future, of big thoughts, big enough to change his mind, to allow the Light to lead him.
Enlightenment personified.
Yet again, the world didn't know what it had.
So many people didn't get it, didn't like him and didn't give a damn.

Who mourned for Malcolm X... 

Joe Rainey did - he lost a friend.

                                                 ©

 

   For more on Malcolm X and WDAS, visit the  DOCUMENTS section

[Above and below:] Original copy from a magazine produced by WDAS management circa 1964 illustrating the national and local events covered and prestigious awards won by WDAS News. WDAS Editor Walt Sanders pictured above in the aftermath of the September 1963, 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, which killed four young girls attending Sunday School in Birmingham; Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins and Cynthia Wesley.

[Above] Reprint of an ad from The Philadelphia Inquirer  February 11, 1964 featuring

Jim Klash: ace newsman and editorialist, tireless warrior against racism and oppression, the winner of nine Valley Forge Freedoms Foundation Awards  including  two sets of 4 consecutive wins, the Armstrong Award for Journalism, dozens of Associated Press Awards for news and editorial excellence.

Also pictured are WDAS journalists Walt Sanders, Joe Rainey and Bill Adams.
                                      

In the inset are Roy Wilkins-NAACP, James Farmer-CORE [Congress of Racial Equality],  Dr. Martin Luther King,Jr.-SCLC, Whitney Young-National Urban League  and President Lyndon Johnson reportedly meeting at the White House prior to the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

There's something else you should know about Jim Klash. His titles varied from time to time, from WDAS News Director to Editorial Director. And  at all times, he was one of the most decorated radio journalists in town. His ability to win news awards ranged from the coverage of "hot" news to his profound, gutsy and visionary editorials. Raised in Boston, his first reporting was for The Stars and Stripes during World War II. After active duty, he was a newspaperman working at the Pittsburgh Courier, Cleveland Call-Post and the Scott Newspaper Syndicate of Atlanta, Ga. After a brief stint at Radio 560 News-WFIL, he joins the staff of WDAS circa 1960. There Jim Klash wages war on police brutality, racial discrimination, and so much more, [you can honestly say] and every known social
ill besetting those turbulent times. WDAS staffers close to Klash knew that slow news days were rough on Jim. He liked action - a lot of action. Wherever news broke - he was there. Flying to Selma or Montgomery, covering the nation's capitol                                      and every neighborhood in Philadelphia.
                                                     
During the coverage of the 1964 Columbia Avenue riots, Joe Rainey was at the anchor desk and Jim Klash joined four other 'DAS newsmen in the field to report efforts being made to stop the violence and to bear witness since it was then unclear how the riots got started and how effective the police response was. Klash felt compelled knowing an on-going riot was no time to have suspicions leading to rumor.
While reporting from a phone booth on Columbia Avenue,live-on the radio
Klash was mistaken for white by an angry mob.
On the air, you heard the phone booth rocking, the crowd yelling, the door being smashed, and Jim Klash, trying to maintain his calm, continued reporting -- but to no avail. The mob got the better of him.
On the air, you heard the phone booth go down as they knocked it over, crashing in and attacking him for the color of his skin.  Klash sustained  serious injuries that required medical attention. 
It was bad.  
But he was undaunted.
It's recalled he was back at work in three days-against doctor's orders.
                    A really, really fearless fighter for human and civil rights.      ©

 
   

 
Jim Klash's daughter, Bea remembers her father's contributions vividly. She also says the Columbia Avenue racial incident was not the first time Klash was mistaken for White and attacked by Blacks. She said there was a remarkably similar incident in New York when Jim worked for the Amsterdam News. Bea also remembers an extremely dangerous  mission  in  Selma, Alabama  involving  her  father  and  WDAS GM Bob Klein.

                Bea Klash picks up the story in a letter to Wynne Alexander :
 
" It was right in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement - your dad, mine and Phil Savage of the NAACP, went to Selma to participate and cover that event. They all left from our home on 15th St. When they arrived they met up with a contingent of folks from Philadelphia and Dr. King's staff. Your father and mine, were itching to get an inside view of what the other side was planning for the march on Selma.

Being that your dad and mine could pass the color test, they decided to go to one of the neighborhood haunts of the Klan. These two walked in and ordered a drink. Started to mingle with the folks, don't know the approach they used but they did engage in conversation. In walked some Klan members, don't know whether it was the lack of a drawl that caused the Klan to become suspicious. (Interjection here: As I sit here and recall this incident, somewhere in the brain I remember they were called out by someone who had seen them earlier in the day with the other " N-____ Supporters." )

Your dad and mine were questioned by these Klan members.
They soon discovered that they were "White Northern Trouble Makers" and what ever southern rebel
names were called -- your dad and mine had to run for their lives.
They wanted to find a rail, Tar and Feather them and run them out of town. My dad said really for the first time, fearing for their lives, ran to a nearby road and flagged a car down. Luckily they were civil rights workers. They got in the car and were driven to safety. They left the area that night. No luggage, that was at a hotel, whatever equipment, tape recorders, cameras was left also. That was the end of the march's coverage for them.
I remember my mother asking my dad where were his clothes and he said, 
    'Ruth we had to get out of town and fast, everything was left there.'
So they may not have covered the historic, bloody march as they intended,
                                       but they did live to tell it.
" 
 
There are more of Bea Klash-Jeffries' accounts of just how dangerous being a U-S Freedom Fighter could be. 

She's in the  
DOCUMENTS  section, under the Malcolm X stories detailing the everyday treachery loose in the land, 
when the U-S movement toward universal civil rights more resembled this country's second civil war.
 

           ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~   

 
      
  Just wouldn't be right to leave out the WDAS Sports Department...

Hometown hero Eddie Bell was the first Sports Reporter for WDAS Radio.
Philly's finest all the way, his brains and athletics took him from West Philadelphia High School, to the University of Pennsylvania where he starred on their football team, then right over to the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles.
                                    
                                 
 
Eddie joined WDAS News after his pro career was over around 1962. His show was on every weekday, Monday through Friday, in 'morning drive time.'  The Eddie Bell Show was one of WDAS' first long term 'big client' success stories.
                                    

Exhibiting progressive social thinking, the Atlantic Richfield Oil Company [ARCO] was his exclusive sponsor for many years, making them the first major oil company with a yearly contract commitment in the station's history.
By comparison, Chevrolet-USA didn't buy time on WDAS AM-FM until 1976. 
 
For a crew that did so much selling -- it wasn't easy getting 'Madison Avenue' to buy  into Black Radio.     ©
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
      It may have all started as some white guys in suits with a  shovel-but this was no ordinary groundbreaking.
 

WDAS AM-FM set ground-breaking standards in broadcast news, music, public affairs, ratings innovations and politics.

The harmony on the air matched by the social harmony WDAS marched for

and achieved.

THE FREEDOM SHOWS


The The second in a series of legendary WDAS Freedom Shows at the Philadelphia Civic Center. This one benefiting the NAACP and OIC.


John Bandy, first famous as legendary radio personality 'Lord Fauntleroy', later WDAS Assistant General Manager and Vice President conferring with Bob Klein backstage at a Freedom Show raising money for WDAS Charities.

     
          John Bandy and Bob Klein in a 1960 publicity photo taken to accompany press release naming Bandy Assistant General Manager of WDAS. One of the first African Americans in broadcasting senior management nationwide, by 1963, Bandy was appointed a WDAS corporate vice president by station CEO Max M. Leon.               

         
    John Bandy   " Lord  Fauntleroy " 

          


WDAS Vice President John Bandy at a press conference with Astronaut, future
U-S Senator from Ohio and presidential candidate, John Glenn 


WDAS Chief of Security Otto Kershaw makes unexpected public appearance
with WDAS Program Director Jimmy Bishop and Butterball

This picture is dated August 3, 1965. Butterball-Joe Tamburro, is holding a gift Bob Klein was presenting to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Warwick Hotel in Philadelphia, Pa.

"J.T.", "Butterball" or Butter, as he is known today, began working at WDAS in 1964, on the sales department roster, but spent most of his time assisting Bob Klein and Program Director Jimmy Bishop.

Below he is seen with the immensely talented Jimmy Bishop who had  become WDAS Vice President for Programming. They're backstage, going over the program for the 1966 Freedom Show at Convention Hall.  From the first time Butterball went on the air, his abundant charisma and "ear" were immediately appreciated by management and audience alike. He went from working weekends and 'swing man' to a one-hour daily Oldies program at 11 PM to evening drive in relatively short order. His signaure rap to Jr. Walker's "Cleo's Back" and later Sly Stone's "Sex Machine" had legendary impact, with young people reciting it from North Philly to the Main Line. Heard in three states, Butterball's daily show became one of the station's most popular ever. When Bishop left WDAS to become Vice President of April/Blackwood Publishing-CBS Records, Butter succeeded him as Program Director of WDAS-AM, eventually  taking over the reins at WDAS-FM, from Harvey Holiday, who had become the stations' Research Director.

Butter began and ended his career with one set of call letters - WDAS AM-FM.
He remained  on the air there, for  45 years.    

Read More about Butter's life and radio history 


And while Bishop became known as the "Sixth Temptation,"  apparently there was another Temptation waiting in the wings.

Leave it to WDAS CEO Max M. Leon to discover the Temps were really opera lovers.

The picture below was taken March 7, 1969. The occasion is an award ceremony held by the Philadelphia Grand Opera Company. Serving in his capacity as opera company president, Leon is presenting the Temptations with a proclamation in appreciation of their musical brilliance and their mutual musical interests from
"My Girl" to "Madame Butterfly"

[L-R] Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, Dennis Edwards, Max M. Leon, Paul Williams, Otis Williams  

                                                    The Other 6th Temptation

  
                                           
                    Bob Klein and Jimmy Bishop backstage at the Uptown Theater
        
                                                    The Bishop of Soul
                                            JIMMY BISHOP

                              The programming mastermind behind WDAS.    
                                            
                          
In the mid 60s, WDAS-AM solidified its position as a major musical force in the industry. Program directors from all over the country would call Bishop on weekends to find out what he was adding to the playlist  on Monday-trusting his ear over their own.

                Speaking to his first wife Sonia Leon, Bob Klein said,
   "Jimmy Bishop is single-handedly responsible for the sound of WDAS."
         
           The musical power, the style, the hits  --  that wa
s Bishop.

                                            ©opyright     ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 
                                                                                   

         
One of the world's greatest composers and singers, Otis Redding 
      with Bob Klein outside WDAS, May 1967......

       
[Left-Right] Rev. Dr. William H. Gray, Jr.- Civil Rights Activist, Bright Hope Baptist Church, King friend, father of Congressman Rev. Dr. Bill Gray III;  Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Georgie Woods of WDAS and the legendary Samuel Evans-friend of Eleanore Roosevelt, defender of Oppenheimer, warrior against McCarthyism, founding chairman of the American Foundation for Negro Affairs




Bob Klein, Activist-Singer-Dancer-Movie Star Sammy Davis Jr., Georgie Woods backstage at the Uptown Theater during charity concert the trio staged to benefit young Philadelphians and to deter gang violence April 12, 1969.

Gang warfare reached new deadly highs in 1969 and 1970. WDAS worked with numerous activists and social agencies trying to stop the violence.  Among the gun surrender programs and constant youth out-reach, the above-mentioned youth benefit concert was held.

Elsewhere on the benefit continuum:

                               

UNITY DAY

  
When Walt Palmer and Bob Klein created WDAS Unity Day in 1978, they weren't allowed to stage anything on the Parkway nor in Fairmount Park.
 
Philadelphia's lame-duck Mayor Frank Rizzo was still royally peeved that WDAS spearheaded the campaign defeating his chance to run for a crowning third term. Absolutely one to hold a grudge and actually quite displeased with WDAS for many years, Frank Rizzo turned down requests for permits in or near anything considered prime locations. No matter. The organizational skills of Unity Day founder Walt Palmer were limitless, his energy boundless. Newspaper reports indicate WDAS got 20 acres in West Philly including the Lee Cultural Center, Drexel University's athletic fields, and the West Park Housing Complex. All of which were reported "in use through out the day." Cobbling together entrepreneurs, activists and educators, coupled with the trademark WDAS entertainment committee, the station attracted tens of thousands of  Philadelphians to the first Unity Day, July 16, 1978.
 
This picture is from The Philadelphia Journal coverage of the second Unity Day
July 29, 1979.  
 
   
 The paper should have called this shot "Clash of the Titans" because both these men are giants in their fields.
 
Here we see
One of the Greatest Hearts in the history of the Pennsylvania legislature, 

State Representative Dave Richardson
and
WDAS DJ Extraordinaire, Research Director and founding WDAS-FM Program Director Harvey Holiday

playing in the Second Annual softball game pitting the
WDAS Allstars against the Political Leaders
. While the score of the game maybe lost in the files-certainly the community was the biggest winner.
Under the watchful eye of Billy Penn, high atop City Hall, corporate giants lined up along the Parkway to join with a station they once shunned or ignored. 
WDAS Unity Day became Unity Week, reporting 1 million participants.
Then the current owners, Clear Channel, canceled it.      ©



WDAS President Max M. Leon, WDAS Radio Gospel star Rev. Louise Williams Bishop,  Rev. Jesse Jackson, Operation PUSH   Photo: W. Alexander Collection


      End of speech--Cartier Watch     
 

And Louise went on to do another 25 years in radio and so much more.
While the length and strength of her extraordinary on-air career is amazing, she also became an ordained Baptist minister. 
 
And from her current seat in the Pennsylvania Legislature she transcended to iconic WDAS legend. 
 
In becoming a Black elected official, she brought home the political empowerment WDAS worked so hard for all those years.



WDAS reporter Ed Bradley before his days at CBS covering an NAACP Civil Rights Rally during a 'live' remote broadcast


Roy Wilkins NAACP National, Bob Klein WDAS Radio, Cecil Moore NAACP     Philadelphia, Georgie Woods of WDAS prior to broadcast  address

 


.Bob Klein-back row- No. 2-Quarterback-with team members
Overbrook High School Varsity Football 1942


 ©opyright 2007-2012
  Wynne Alexander 

Photos Copyright Bob Klein Archive 
unless otherwise specified

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