Thursday, June 11, 2009

KKK Radio

I've found a couple cases in the past where the KKK actually owned a broadcasting facility. It's rare today that they have any voice on the commercial FM or even AM band. That's not to say there's no voice for bigotry or racism in broadcasting, there's always FOX. Regardless, it makes these historical instances even more arcane.In the image above you see a Klansman sitting atop a defeated Catholic. It comes from the text "Klansmen: Guardians of Liberty" printed by the Pillar of Fire Church in 1926. Church founder, Bishop Alma Birdwell White went on to print dozens of books supporting the KKK and white supremacy. These works include "the Good Citizen," "The Ku Klux Klan Prophesy", "Guardians of Liberty," "Heroes of the Fiery Cross"etc. You may be thinking man.. that's a long time ago. But just wait. She reprinted them in 1943, shortly before her death in 1946. The 1992 Book "Women of the Klan" details Alma's role as a spokesperson for the Klan. (She even penned Klan poetry)

Bishop white had left the Methodist Church in 1917 because it was "hopelessly apostate." Really it just refused to recognize female preachers as equals. She'd been holding revivals and wanted some recognition. So she started a Pentecostal sect, the Pillar of Fire Church. They built a compound in Franklin country New Jersey that got so nutty that her husband divorced her and repudiated the sect. Strangely at this time in her life her politics took two major changes. She became an advocate for the ERA and also big time supporter of the KKK. She wanted women to be treated equally unless they were Jewish, black or (gasp) Catholic.

In 1925 when WBNY-AM signed on at 1430 MHz. The first owner was Shirley Katz, who sold to engineer Sydney Norton Baruch that same year. In 1926 the station moved to 930 AM then inexplicably moved to 1370 to share time with both WKBO, WKBQ and WFRL. It seems odd but really they'd only been running a little PM programming anyway. They moved again in 1928 to 1350 becoming a share time with WCDA, WKBQ and WMSG. Sick of the endless merry-go-round Baruch sold to The Pillar of Fire Church and one Bishop White.

In 1928 Pillar of Fire branched out and bought a stick in Westminster Colorado. 1490 KPOF-AM was initially licensed as KGEY-AM at a mere 15 watts. Pillar of Fire refers to this as their oldest station forgetting that Katz started WBNY years earlier. Their ownership initiated was only months apart. They also own 93.3 WAKW in Cincinnati which they actually founded themselves rather than purchased. In 1961 the FCC grated them the calls WAKW standing for Arthur Kent White, the initials of the Bishops son.
WMSG was shortly thereafter absorbed into WBNY making WAWZ a much more valuable property. It was a share-time with new York station WBNX-AM. WAWZ-AM still only broadcast about 4 hours a day. In 1954 in a very-forward-thinking move they bought 99.1 FM from the New Brunswick Home News. In 1984, after the last descendant of Ms. White left the helm, P.O.F. sold off the AM stick allowing WKDM-AM to go to 24 hour service. Just to reiterate their bigoted roots, they ran a special day of programming before handing off. It was a full-day of recordings of Bishop Alma Birdwell White preaching her nutty head off.

Despite being dead for decades WAWZ didn't repudiate the KKK until 1997. They described their dalliance with the KKK as "brief" an adjective that vastly understates the connection.