ATLANTA (WAOK)-Today a man I had come to know as a friend and colleague was laid to rest. Bishop W. Ron Sailor, Sr., a broadcast trailblazer, father, church leader and businessman, died Sunday October 6, at the age of 61. He had a heart attack on the way to his church, Christ the King Baptist in Dacula. While everyone remembers Ron for being the first African American broadcaster to anchor a program on a major station in the south earning 7 Emmy Awards for his efforts and others remember him as a man who could preach the word in a mighty, mighty way, I remember Ron Sailor as one of the first people who helped me settle in as I started a new life in Atlanta a little more than 11 years ago.
When I arrive in Atlanta from Baltimore, Maryland at the end of December 2001 to start my career at V-103 and WAOK Radio, I knew a handful of people already here from Baltimore. DJ Bubby Love who danced at my bachelorette party ten years prior (that’s another story for another day), Tara Thomas who was at one time my intern, and Frank Ski who I used to host a morning show with in Baltimore years earlier.
I did not know the legacy of Ron Sailor when I met him.
WAOK had recently switched formats from gospel to news and talk. I was assigned to do the news during the morning show on WAOK. Ron was doing the station a favor and filling in as host of the morning show because the previous host had become ill and couldn’t fulfill that duty.
The first morning I anchored the news Ron introduced himself and complemented on my abilities. “Cool” I thought as I went back to writing my newscast for the next hour. “He’s nice” I said to myself.
A few days later, at the end of the morning show, Ron approached me and asked how much I knew about the city I now worked in. “Not much” I responded. “Well let’s change that right now,” he said. Thus began an exercise and experience that I will forever cherish.
Ron took me to the Atlanta University Center telling me some of the history of Morris Brown, Clark Atlanta, Spelman, and Morehouse along the way. That day we also stopped at Busy Bee for lunch. He pointed out the original Pascals and told me about Dr. King holding strategy meetings there back in the day. He also bragged about the fried chicken at Busy Bee.
About a week or so later, at the end of the shift Ron grabbed me by the arm and told me today’s lesson would be about Auburn Avenue, the home of Dr. King’s birthplace and burial. As we rode through the street he pointed out the Auburn Avenue Library, Apex Museum, Royal Peacock, SCLC building and other sites. This day we also stopped at Son’s Place which had the best sweet potato pie.
I am quickly seeing a pattern here. It is a learning experience after all and food can be just as big a part of that lesson as everything else.
Every few days we hit the streets after work. We rode down Cascade one day. He pointed out where Atlanta’s elite reside and we stopped at The Beautiful Restaurant for another great lunch. Of course everyone knew Ron and told them they loved hearing him back on the radio.
When he took me to the West End to see the Mall, Willie Watkins Funeral Home, and the Shrine of the Black Madonna book store, we also stopped around the corner at Chantrelle’s Restaurant for their country French soul food.
The day we visited Greenbriar Mall we stopped at Q-Time on Campbellton Road. I had enough food for two days after that visit! We went back to the West End to the Q Time there. We stopped by This Is It BBQ and Seafood because I wanted to go there.
Little has been said about Ron’s time back at WAOK in early 2002. I mentioned it when I spoke briefly at his memorial service on Friday. In the grand scheme of his life, that time back at WAOK didn’t really amount to much. It only lasted about 3 or 4 months before he bid adieu and went on with the rest of his life.
Now Ron has bid adieu to all of us. He is now broadcasting at a higher level. Ron was always jovial, upbeat and supportive. Every time i saw him over the last 11 years, he always said he listened to me on the radio. I don’t know if that is true or not. What I do know is the world, broadcast and otherwise is a better place because he was here. I am a better person because he took the time to introduce me to the city that I would come to love, my new home-Atlanta. Rest in peace Ron.
Here are some photos from the Memorial Service at Jackson Memorial Baptist Church.