Jesse B. Blayton, Sr. made radio history when he became the first African-American to own and operate a radio station in America.
Blayton was born December 6, 1897, in Fallis, Oklahoma and studied at the Walton School of Chicago and the University of Chicago. He moved to Atlanta in 1922 and became Georgia’s first African-American Certified Public Accountant six years later. By the 1940s, Jesse B. Blayton, Sr. had become a bank president and a professor at Atlanta University. In 1949, he purchased 1,000-watt station WERD/Atlanta and hired his son Jesse Blayton Jr. as station manager.
The younger Blayton hired radio veteran Jack Gibson to be an announcer and Ken Knight to be program director. WERD’s “black appeal” format became an instant success with African-American listeners. By 1951, Gibson—using the on-air name “Jockey Jack”—was Atlanta’s most popular disc jockey.
During the 1960s, the station shared building space with the Southern Christian Leadership Council and provided a platform for civil rights activists to make their voices heard. Blayton sold WERD in 1968 and remained active in community affairs until his death. Jesse B. Blayton, Sr. died on September 7, 1977. Jesse B. Blayton, Sr. was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1995.