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Special Collections and Archives: WSB Radio History: 1930s

This guide chronicles the history of Atlanta's first radio station.

Events 1930-1939

1930 WSB's Fritz Hirsch became the first Georgian to sell a radio commercial.

February 8, 1930 WSB increases its power to 1,000 watts.

December 1932 WSB's Lambdin Kay and Ernie Rogers mobilize the "Unorganized Cheerful Givers" and raise $4,000.00 for needy Atlantans.

September 9, 1933 WSB increases its power to 1,000 watts.

June 29, 1934 NBC broadcasts a special program originating on WSB saluting Admiral Richard Byrd. The program was rebroadcast to the South Pole via shortwave and featured a 25 piece dance band playing "The Byrd Expedition", written by Lambdin Kay and Ernie Rogers.

December 1939 Governor James Cox of Ohio purchases The Atlanta Journal and WSB Radio.

Personnel 1930-1939

Marcus Bartlett Marcus Bartlett
He joined WSB in 1930 as a part time piano player, bedtime story teller and staff announcer while attending college. In 1940 he became a full time employee and went on to serve as production director, sports announcer, music director and other odd jobs.  He later made the move to WSB TV.  He moved up the ladder to become executive vice president for Cox Broadcasting.  He retired from Cox Broadcasting in December 1975. 
  Morgan Blake
Sportswriter for the Atlanta Journal – he often broadcast sports commentaries on WSB Radio.  Known for his coverage of legendary golfer Bobby Jones.

 

Frank Crowther Frank Crowther
Announcer who was also a play-by-play sports broadcaster, calling local high school games on WSB. Frank went by the on-air nickname "Red Cross."
James Cox James Cox
Governor of Ohio who in December 1939 purchases The Atlanta Journal and WSB Radio.
James Davenport James Davenport
Davenport was a staff announcer whose nickname was "Wingfoot". He often stammered when speaking off air, but when the microphone came on he spoke perfectly.
Douglas Edwards Douglas Edwards
He worked both as a member of the WSB radio news staff at and as an assistant news editor on the Atlanta Journal.  He left in 1938 to work in Detroit, but returned to WSB in 1940 as assistant news director. Edwards is a 2007 Legacy inductee in The Georgia Radio Hall of Fame.
  Eli Frisch
A featured actor in the locally produced dramatic program Symphony of Life.

 

Fritz Hirsch Fritz Hirsch
A WSB announcer and credited as being the first Georgian to sell a radio commercial in 1930.
  Hugh Ivey
News reporter for WSB Radio during the 30’s. One of a team that broadcast details of the festivities surrounding the premier of the movie Gone With The Wind.

 

O.B. Keeler O.B. Keeler
A sportswriter for the Atlanta Journal who often broadcast sports commentaries on WSB Radio. Keeler covered legendary Atlanta golfer Bobby Jones and is reported to be the first sport caster to use the term "grand slam" when referring to golf.
  Edna Lee
Writer for the WSB dramatic program Symphony of Life.

 

John M. Outler John M. Outler (*Courtesy of Janet Beerman)
In 1931, John joined the station as commercial manager and later became General Manager of both WSB Radio and WSB-TV.  He retired in 1957.
  Walter Paschall
One of the early news reporters for WSB Radio along with the legendary Douglas Edwards.  He was the nephew of the editor of the Atlanta Journal John Paschall. Paschall later became news director for WSB Radio. 

 

J. Leonard Reinsch J. Leonard Reinsch
One of the most famous names in radio broadcasting, Reinsch was called on by Governor Cox in 1939 to manage WSB. He eventually became president and CEO of Cox Broadcasting Corporation.  In March 1973, Reinsch was presented the coveted Gold Medal award from the International Radio and Television Society.   In September 2003 the Library of American Broadcasting named Reinsch as one of the "First Fifty Giants of Broadcasting". He also served as a key advisor to Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. In 1960, he arranged for the now historic TV debates between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. Mr. Reinsch retired in 1973 from Cox Broadcasting.
  Louis T. Rigdon
Mr. Rigdon and his wife directed a program called the Atlanta Journal School of the Air. The program brought talented youngsters to the microphone for competition, then took winners to national competition in Washington and New York.  According to the book Welcome South, Brother, The Georgia state school superintendent praised the show as being “directly responsible for the doubling of the state school fund.”

 

  Mary Nell Ivey Santicroce
Featured actress in the WSB dramatic program Symphony of Life.

 

  Charles Smithgall
Charles Smithgall was the administrative assistant to Lambdin Kay and morning personality on the "Morning Merry-Go-Round." He was known to early-risers in several states as "Old man Smithgall's son Charles." His cow "Daisy," whom he milked every morning (via sound effects), was familiar to all his listeners. When a tornado hit Gainesville on April 6, 1936, WSB was first to broadcast the news. Smithgall went to Gainesville, and from a front porch on Broad Street he reported the scene in the dark and rain for WSB and the NBC network. He left WSB in 1940 and founded his own broadcasting and publishing company.

 

Lessie Smithgall Lessie Smithgall
Married Charles Smithgall in 1934. She was continuity director for WSB and a played key role in helping to establish the Peabody Awards. In her own words: "Mr. Kay called me into his office during a coffee breakin 1938 and asked if there was a foundation at Georgia, my alma mater, where we could get help in establishing these awards. Well, Mr. Drewry was my mentor and a good friend at the university, and I suggested him to Mr. Kay."  John Drewry was dean of the School of Journalism at UGA. Kay called him--and together they founded the Peabody Awards.  (Information and quotes from the University of Georgia).
 
  Dana Waters
News reporter for WSB Radio during the 1930’s.  One of a team that broadcast details of the festivities surrounding the premier of the movie Gone With The Wind.

 

Lou Zoller Lou Zoller
One of five men who formed the core of announcers at WSB in the decade of the '30s.   He was also director of the "Sunset Club" on WSB Radio in the 1930's.
 

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