WLAC (1922-1923)

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“Nobody now fears that a Japanese fleet could deal an unexpected blow on our Pacific possessions… Radio makes surprises impossible.”

Josephus Daniels*, owner of the Raleigh News & Observer, on WLAC’s first broadcast Oct. 16, 1922

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  • Close up of man with dark hair and mustache.
    Electrical engineering instructor George C. Cox helped develop radio station WLAC. Photo from 1921 Agromeck.

NC State student radio dates back to 1921-1922, when Instructor Major George C. Cox and his electrical engineering students began constructing a “radiotelephone transmitting apparatus.” At least one source reports the first experimental broadcast took place on March 5, 1922, which would make it North Carolina’s very first radio broadcast.1 A more precise origin date is Aug. 31, 1922, when WLAC “We Lead All Colleges” at North Carolina State College became the first radio station in eastern North Carolina and the third to be licensed in the entire state.2

The 2,000 watt AM station operated out of a studio in Winston Hall. WLAC’s first official broadcast was on Oct. 16, 1922 and featured a variety of speakers, including Cameron Morrison (Governor of North Carolina, 1921-1925), T.B. Eldridge (Mayor of Raleigh, 1921-1923) and W.C. Riddick (President of NC State College, 1919-1923). Another guest speaker was Josephus Daniels, former secretary of the U.S. Navy and owner of the Raleigh News & Observer, who made the ironic prediction: “Nobody now fears that a Japanese fleet could deal an unexpected blow on our Pacific possessions… Radio makes surprises impossible.”3

During that first year, the station broadcast a musical program from a Junior Faculty Club event4 and play-by-play of NC State baseball.5 In the book Education’s Own Stations, S. E. Frost reports “as there was no appropriation available to care for the expenses of the station, only intermittent broadcasts of a more or less experimental nature were possible.”6 No application for renewal was filed and the station went off the air the next year. The station was deleted from the Department of Commerce records on Oct. 29, 1923. The call letters WLAC were reassigned to a station in Nashville in 1926.

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*. Josephus Daniels was a white supremacist involved in the Wilmington insurrection of 1898. See Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy by David Zucchino for more information.
1. “State’s first radio station reaches 60th year.” (1982, March 5). Technician.
2. Radio Service Bulletin. (1922, Sept. 1). Dept. of Commerce.
3. Wallace, Wesley H. (1962). The development of broadcasting in North Carolina, 1922-1948 (doctoral dissertation). Duke University: Durham, N.C.
4. “Junior faculty holds banquet.” (1923, Feb. 16). Technician.
5. “Riddick Mountain to be eliminated.” (1923, Jan. 18). Technician.
6. Frost, S. E. (1971). Education’s own stations. New York: Arno Press.