November 7, 2008

Austin Culmer, one of the first African Americans to host a call-in show has died

Austin W. Culmer Jr., 82, one of the first African Americans to host a call-in show on a big-signal radio station in Philadelphia, died of natural causes Thursday.

Culmer, who grew up in Philadelphia, was a postal worker in the mid-1960s when the radio bug bit, said his son, Austin W.K. Culmer.


Mr. Culmer's first show in 1965, was Teen Talks on African American heritage station WHAT-AM (1340). For the next 35 years, off and on, he "did everything on radio," his son said. Broadcasting was always something of a hobby. He would conduct his show, usually between midnight and 5 a.m., taking calls from insomniacs and night workers, and discussing the events of the day. Then he would be off to work at the main post office, where his office was next to the postmaster's.

Although broadcasting was a part-time enterprise, he loved the medium. Altogether, he worked as a disc jockey at nine stations, playing everything from classical music to country-and-western. But he really became well-known in the city after 1984, when he began his talk format at WCAU.
His motto was, "Heavy on the light stuff and light on the heavy stuff."

In 1968, while hosting a country show on WRCP-AM (then at 1540), Mr. Culmer was recruited to handle weekend and overnight talk shows at 50,000-watt WCAU-AM, now WPHT (1210). He also worked for talk station WWDB-FM until its format change in 2000.He retired from the Postal Service as a public information officer in 1985. He was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia's Hall of Fame in 2000 and served for a decade on its board.
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