State dedicates historic marker to memorialize NC's oldest broadcast station

Published: Nov. 15, 2013 at 6:37 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 15, 2013 at 6:37 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - "4XD" -- May not sound familiar to you, but when that experimental radio station moved to downtown Charlotte and adopted the call letters "WBT," broadcasting in the Carolinas began its historic run.

Now celebrating 90+ years, WBT (1110 AM) was the first commercial radio station in North or South Carolina and the second in the South, after Atlanta's WSB.

While regular broadcasts began in 1922, the station moved to a more permanent home in 1924. The Wilder Building was located at the corner of Tryon and 3rd Streets before being demolished in 1983. Currently the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel occupies that space.

Longtime chief voice of the station, Grady Cole, joined the announcing staff in 1929. The signal was boosted to 50,000 watts and blanketed the East Coast in 1933. WBT became home to many country music arts, including the Johnson Family, the Briarhoppers and, in time, to Arthur Smith and the Crackerjacks and "The Singing Cowboy," Fred Kirby.

On July 15, 1949, announcer Jim Patterson signed WBTV onto its initial broadcast, making Channel 3 the first television station in the two Carolinas. WBTV took up residence in the Wilder Building beside its sister station, WBT Radio, where both remained until 1955.

WBTV has enjoyed a long history providing local news and entertainment programming, along with CBS network programming, for nearly 65 years. Station talent has included News Anchor Doug Mayes, Weatherman Clyde McLean, TV Homemaker Betty Feezor, composer Loonis McGlohon, and personalities Jim Patterson and Fred Kirby.

The NC Highway Historical Marker Advisory Committee has approved and erected a marker at the site of the former Wilder Building located in uptown Charlotte at Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Third Street.

The marker was unveiled Tuesday afternoon at a ceremony attended by current Gov. Pat McCrory, WBTV Station Manager Nick Simonette and WBT Radio's Bo Thompson.

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