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WCBQ Radio

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Nashville's First Religious Radio Station Was At First Baptist Church
by Steve Sparks, FBC member, History Committee member

   Religious radio broadcasting in Nashville owes its beginning to First Baptist Nashville. The church established the city’s first licensed radio broadcasting station in 1924—at that time one of only two church broadcasting stations in the entire South. This endeavor came about primarily due to FBC member W. A. Marks conceiving the idea of expanding the church’s outreach through a radio ministry. (Ward-Belmont College had installed a small radio station in 1922, but it’s limited facilities were not available to the church.) Marks and high-school senior, John H. Dewitt, Jr., directed the design and installation of the powerful 100-watt station in a small room in the Northwest corner of the Sunday School Annex. John Dewitt later helped establish and became president of Station WSM in Nashville.

To test the station’s range, a trial program was broadcast on March 18, 1924, and letters of response poured in from the Eastern Coast, Great Lakes Region, throughout the South, and as far west as Nebraska. This set a record for distance as there were so few radio stations at that time to offer interference.

The first official broadcast of the station occurred on Sunday morning April 6, 1924, with a sermon from pastor W.F. Powell. Broadcasts were also aired on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings from 7:30 to 9:00 P.M. A feature article was published in the Nashville Tennessean on the first day of broadcast with photographs portraying Pastor Powell speaking into a large round microphone on the pulpit.

The call letters of the station, WCBQ, came from the motto “We Can’t Be Quiet” reflecting the spirit of a church which felt impelled to utilize this new means of communicating the gospel.

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