ATLANTA (WAOK)-Nine radio legends were honored Saturday at the first annual “Truthy Awards” hosted by Derrick Boazman of “Too Much Truth” heard on WAOK (1380 AM) weekdays 4 to 7 pm. Boazman said he came up with the idea to honor those who blazed the trail in radio while attending the funeral of late sports announcer Joe Walker. Walker who was blind, died last year at the age of 81. Joe Walker spent the bulk of his career in Atlanta, where he covered the Atlanta Falcons, Braves and the Atlanta Hawks. Walker also hosted a radio show on WAOK-AM when it was a gospel station.
Saturday legends Jack “Jack the Rapper” Gibson, Paul Burke Johnson, Duane Jones, Hal Lamar, Bob Lee, James “Alley Pat” Patrick , Ron Sailor, Doug Steele and Larry Tinsley were honored for their many years of work in radio at Murrell’s Cafe on the campus of Morris Brown College.
All of the “legends” were present to accept their awards except the late Jack Gibson who died in February 2000. Gibson’s award was accepted by his daughter Jill Gibson who was brought to tears in her acceptance speech saying, “she was humbled by receiving the award for her father.” Jack “Jack The Rapper” Gibson was known for opening doors for those who wanted a radio career and those artists who wanted a career in the music industry.
All of the radio legends had an opportunity to speak during the awards ceremony and none shied away from the mic telling inside stories of their early radio careers. 93 year old James “Alley Pat” Patrick remembered his days of radio by remarking that he enjoyed radio, “because it gives you a chance to say what you want to say.” Alley Pat began his career in 1947 at WERD in Atlanta and joined the staff of WAOK in 1954 where he worked at the nation’s first 24 hour all black format radio station. Alley Pat continued a long storied career in radio that has lasted more than 65 years.
Paul Burke Johnson attended Morris Brown College majoring in sociology and music. In 1954, he began his radio career as a part time announcer at WERD. Two years later, he joined WAOK as a fulltime announcer and after a stint in the military returned to civilian life and became program director and general manager of WAOK. Johnson was also the voice of the nationally syndicated program “Inspirations Across America” until his retirement in 2002.
Duane Jones started his career in Cleveland and in 1970 came to Atlanta to work at WAOK as a news announcer. Jones talked about the importance of education, community and self responsibility. Jones credited Paul Burke Johnson with giving him an opportunity to have a career in radio. Jones still works in radio and television today in Birmingham, Al.
Hal Lamar started his career in 1968 in Atlanta at WIGO, interrupted his radio career for a stint in the military during the Vietnam War and returned to Atlanta as host of a News and Public Affairs program at WAOK in 1979. Lamar is credited with giving Derrick Boazman his first opportunity to be on the radio when he was a student activist at Morris Brown. Lamar thanked Ron Sailor another radio legend honoree for hiring him at WIGO.
Bob Lee started his career in 1967 at WAOK during the days of civil disturbances lead by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Lee says he never considered himself to be a legend but thanked all of the supporters for acknowledging his career.
Ron Sailor also worked at WAOK in 1971 and various other radio stations in Atlanta but went on to become one of the first African American television reporters at WSB TV. Sailor is now pastor of a successful church in Gwinnett County. Sailor said, “I stand on the shoulders of a lot of people like Ben Haley, Gene Michaels, Zilla Mays, even Jivemaster, Ezmond Patterson, Harrison Smith and Brother Bob McKee who were gracious enough to pass the torch on to me when I was 18 years old.”
Doug Steele started his career in 1965 on the west coast and moved to Atlanta in 1969 to work at WAOK. Doug Steele told the story of being the very first announcer hired by James Brown to work at his very first station WGYW in Knoxville, TN. Steele worked there for one year before being fired. Burke Johnson is also credited with hiring Steele in Atlanta to work at WAOK where he stayed for 9 years. Steele said he found fellow honoree Larry Tinsley running an elevator when he hired him back in 1968 in Knoxville Tn.
Finally, Larry Tinsley known as the Triple T (Tall, Talented, and Totally Sold Out For Jesus) began his career in Knoxville, TN . Tinsley is credited with some of the highest ratings in the history of V-103 the perennial number one station in Atlanta. Tinsley credits his success to God ordering the steps of people like Doug Steele who he says could have taken the stairs to WJBE (Brown changed the name of the station after he purchased it) instead of the elevator when he was discovered. Tinsley has been in radio now for 44 years.
Derrick Boazman plans to honor radio legends every year at the annual Truthy Awards. Boazman says it’s his way of giving back to those who made the road he has traveled on radio a lot easier.