As time permits a more complete telling of the history of WJMA will be added to this page. Last updated 08/08/2008
In March of 1946 Welford Sherman of Orange, Virginia, was discharged from the U.S. Army with the rank of Major. He had entered military service in December of 1941 after graduation from Virginia Tech in May where he had been in the Corps of Cadets. His Virginia Tech engineering studies soon saw him assigned to the research efforts on radar underway at MIT and Harvard University in Massachusetts. He later served in the Pacific Theater where he was awarded two Bronze Stars. He returned to Orange to help the family business, W.A. Sherman Company, adapt to the peace time economy.
By early in1948, Welford had installed an 84 foot tall antenna on the Sherman Company building. The antenna was to receive television broadcasts from the one station in Richmond (WTVR channel 6) and the four stations in Washington (WNBW [now WRC], channel 4; WTTG, channel 5; WTVW [now WJLA] channel 7; and WOIC [now WUSA] 9.) The four Washington stations begin broadcasting in 1947. WTVR began broadcasting in April of 1948. Television reception in rural Virginia was not good at the time. Welford's antenna attracted lots of attention in Orange and he was invited to speak to the Orange Rotary Club about television.
By May of 1948 Sherman told the Orange Chamber of Commerce about a proposal for a radio station in Orange. Fred Allman owner of WSVA in Harrisonburg, VA, had seen Welford Sherman's TV antenna and asked if Sherman might be interested in starting a radio station in Orange. Sherman told the Chamber that the estimated cost for the station was $10,000 exclusive of land or a building. He estimated the station with a staff of five would need to take in $2,000 a month to remain in business.
Things moved quickly and local group called James Madison Broadcasting Corporation was formed with Sherman as President, Henry C. DeJarnett, Secretary; and Goree A. Waugh, Treasurer. Norman C. Bailey and Arthur E. Sims were listed as Directors. They applied to the Federal Communications Commission for a license to operate a radio station in Orange. The FCC set February 14, 1949 for a hearing in Orange to see if a local station was justified by reason of "public interest, convenience and necessity". Three FCC staffers spent two days in Orange hearing testimony on the application. Frank U. Fletcher of Washington was the attorney for the James Madison Broadcasting Corporation. The applicants proposed raising $18,500 by the sale of stock. Officers of the corporation, local business men and citizens were heard from. Frank Fletcher passed away in 1995 after a long career as a communications attorney in Washington.
The original stockholders were all prominent businessmen: Frederick L. Allman, C. Emerson Altman, Norman C. Bailey (State Delegate), Charles Robert Butler, Zed William Chewning, Hugh C. Clark, C. Cosby Cluff, Frank L. Colvin, Craun Brothers ("Mutt and "Jiggs"), Henry C. DeJarnette, Watt J. Dunnington, William B. Early, C.C. Gill & Sons (Charles), J.Haywood. Gillum, Otis Broaddus Jones, Kentucky Flooring Company (Claiborne "China" Carter), Mason Insurance Agency (Harry C. Mason), Woodbury S. Ober, Pitts Madison Theatre (State Senator Benjamin T. Pitts), W. J. Rollins, Welford A. Sherman Jr., Arthur E. Sims, Edward B. Sparks, Hartzell Spence, Richard B. Suddith, George B. Tyler, Goree A. Waugh, and Wyatt A. Williams. For more information on each original stockholder, click here.
The owners of a Washington, DC station already operating on the Orange station's proposed frequency of 1340 challenged the application saying the new station would cause interference. A further hearing was scheduled for Washington. The challenge was denied and on June 27, 1949 a license was granted to the James Madison Broadcasting Corporation for a "standard" (AM) radio station to operate unlimited hours on 1340 kc with 250 watts of power.
The Orange group moved quickly. Warren Braun, an associate of Fred Allman, came over the mountain from Harrisonburg to begin construction on the new station. Studios and transmitter were to be located at the DeVivi Restaurant south of the Town of Orange on US Highway 15. Call letters had not been chosen by mid-July, 1949, but Mutual Broadcasting System affiliation and United Press news wire had been secured. A July 21, 1949 article in the Orange Review said the station would begin broadcasting on September 1, 1949. On September 8, "The Office Kat" column in the Review announced that "Welford Sherman and his cohorts have been busy alerting the populace for the first broadcast of Orange's brand-new radio station WJMA, at 12 noon on Saturday. Goree Waugh has been so busy laying the fancy tile flooring out there, his staff only sees his coat tails these days. Cheer up early birds! Soon, you won't need that coffee to wake up these mornings. Just turn your dial to 1340 and an ad for Grymes Drug Store will do the rest."
A full page ad in the review invited people to "Watch WJMA Go on the Air!" at noon on Saturday September 10, 1949. The exact make up of the staff at sign on is not completely clear. Arthur Livick was the Station Manager. At 27 years old, he was often spoken of as "one of the youngest radio station managers in the country." He had previous experience at WTVR and WMBG in Richmond as well as WJEJ in Hagerstown, MD. In "Miss Peytie's Radio Column" in the Orange Review, she said "...if Art had been made to order he could not be more 'right' for WJMA. Possessing a magnetic personality, he immediately makes fast friends of everyone he meets." Art would soon introduce "The Old Timer" as a character he played on the air and in public appearances. The Old Timer would be a favorite for many locals during Livick's two and a half years at WJMA. Also at the station on day 1 were Charlie McGinley, Assistant Manager and Joe Trivette the morning announcer.
An article in the September 15, 1949, Orange Review said the first day sign on ceremony began with an invocation by Rev. F.B. LeSueur. Welford Sherman followed describing the efforts to get WJMA on the air and the goals of WJMA. Other speakers included Virginia General Assemby Delegate Norman Bailey, John S. Walker, Superintendent of School C. J. M. Kyle, D. N. Davidson, Henry DeJarnette, Hartzell Spence and Reverends R. Stuart Grizzard, Millard Rewis, and H.C. Pickard. DeVivi Restaurant owner Al DeVivi cut a 40 pound birthday cake. T. Russell Davis won a radio for being the oldest person present and the infant daughter of Richard Whitmore won a prize for being the youngest person in attendance. Another radio went to A.Q. Craun.
WJMA began the broadcast day Monday through Saturday at 6:30 with a news roundup. Joe Trivette was the morning announcer and engineer. Details of his broadcast experience prior to WJMA are not known. Joe left WJMA in June, 1952 to take a job with WLAK in Lakeland, Florida. Joe continued in radio at several Central Florida radio stations. He died March of 1993. Boyd Shilling came on after the 8 o'clock news with a "Tops In Pops" request program. Sunday nights at 8 there was "Miss Peytie's (Johnson) Open House". It was sponsored by Peoples Grocery. Listeners were invited to the station to watch the interview show and enjoy a cup of Fairfax Hall coffee after the show.
Very quickly WJMA became a part of the fabric of the community. By the early summer of 1950, the Orange Review was printing WJMA supplied weather forecasts on the front page. Local groups were featured on the radio station. Waugh-Young Equipment Company sponsored "The Voice of the Farmer" weekdays at noon. This program provided air time for county agents from Orange, Madison and Greene counties. "The Old Timer" helped the Orange Volunteer Fire Company with its fund raising. A newspaper article told people to listen to WJMA for details on a fair and party being planned by the Orange Teen-Age Club. The Orange Junior and Senior Women's Club were raising funds for a playground. They planned an amateur program which WJMA was going to broadcast. According to a November 30, 1950 article in the Review, WJMA would be checking with the North Pole about Santa's visit to Orange and the Christmas parade. Another front page article on December 7, 1950 about the amateur program listed the prizes for the winners and noted that the first prize winner would have an opportunity to audition for the staff of the Original Amateur Hour with Ted Mack. WJMA helped with the publicity and by the time the amateur program was staged, the Boy Scouts & Girl Scouts has become involved, National Bank, Citizens Bank, and Virginia Metal Products were all offering prizes. The Orange County Library sponsored a weekly broadcasts for children. Local residents read children's books on the air.
The Mutual Broadcasting System gave WJMA access to some national sporting events. In the fall of 1950, WJMA aired the World Series and late in the year the station carried the Gator Bowl game. In March of 1951, WJMA began to air serialized Bold Venture with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. It was sponsored by the Firestone store in Orange. (There are copies of newspaper adverstisements for many of these programs in the Printed Ads image gallery.)
The March 29, 1951 Orange Review carried a story about an interview on WJMA that was conducted by A.C. Washington of George Washington Carver Regional High School. He interviewed Mr. and Mrs. Edward Braxton. Although not noted in the article, the participants were African American. This was probably a bold step in 1951.
Art Livick and the Old Timer were busy with public appearances. On August 9, 1951, The Old Timer was part of a celebration as the Orange baseball club took on Rappahannock club. In September he was the Master of Ceremonies at Unionville High School's talent show. In October Livick was named President of the West Hanover Presbytery, a group of 38 Presbyterian Churches in Central Virginia. In November of 1951, Livick was named acting chairman of the proposed Junior Chamber of Commerce (later known as Jaycees).
In December of 1951 WJMA published a schedule of its evening programs. It was headlined "TOP EVENING LISTENING ON WJMA...THE GREATEST LITTLE STATION IN THE NATION". The schedule included Bette Davis in Women of the Year, Orsen Wells The Black Museum, various MGM musicals, Errol Flynn The Adventures of a Modern Casanova, Ann Southern The Adventures of Maisie, Lionel Barrymore Dr. Kildare, Mickey Rooney The Hardy Family, The Gracie Fields Show, and Crime Does Not Pay.
Making a success of a small town radio station was not easy. In the early 1950s Orange's population was around 2,500. As the excitement of a new radio station wore off, WJMA struggled to make a profit. In late 1956 one of the original stockholders, Woodbury Ober bought out the interests of the other stockholders. The FCC approved the sale in October of 1956. The in May of 1959 Charlottesville Broadcasting, owners of WINA AM/FM in Charlottesville, merged the operation of WINA and WJMA. Don Heyne ower of WINA assumed day-to-day operation of WJMA. Woodbury Ober became a stockholder of Charlottesville Broadcasting. Bob Wagner, who had been brought in as Station Manager when Ober bought the station continued as Station Manager. A story in the Orange Review noted that WJMA had nine employees.
On May 20, 1959 Charlottesville Broadcasting purchased 4.66 acres of land on Spicer's Mill Road on the North side of the Town of Orange from Thelma and Eloise Kean and A.M. and Winnie Hitt. Soon thereafter the station moved to a custom built 30 by 33 foot building. The buiding included an office/reception area, manager's office, a large studio/record library, control room, transmitter room, bathroom and hallway/storage area. There will soon be a floor plan in the "WJMA Places" image gallery. A 185 foot tall AM tower was located behind the building. The location was chosen in part because the land behind the building was swampy and well suited to AM radio transmission. Daytime power was increased to 1000 watts. Nightime power remained at 250 watts.
In early 1960s WJMA moved into its new building on Spicers Mill Road.
The March 23, 1961 Orange Review printed a story saying Arch Harrison and WJMA Incorporated purchased the license from Charlottesville Broadcasting on the previous Friday: March 17, 1961. Harrison took over running the station on July 1, 1961. That began a period of almost 25 years of operation under the same owner.
WJMA FM at 96.7 mHz went on the air Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1971 as a simulcast of WJMA AM. In 1974 a 28 by 40 foot addition was put on the rear of the existing building. The building expansion provided space for an engineering workshop, additional bathroom, staff office space, news room, Sales Manager's office, General Manager's office and two studios.
WJMA began using the slogan "Radio Orange" in the mid 1970s. In the early 1980s WJMA AM increased nightime power to 1000 watts. In 1976 the original mono FM transmitter was replaced with a stereo transmitter and the tower height was increased to 343 feet for better FM coverage. In 1981 the basement area of the addition was finished to provide more office space for an increased sales staff.
Some consider the 1975-1983 period the "golden years" for WJMA which oftentimes considered itself a rural version of WMAL AM, Washington, DC. WJMA had a strong local news and sports commitment. The music was Middle of the Road (MOR) which evolved into Adult Contemporary (AC) by the late 70s. In 1978 the news staff won 7 of 8 Associated Press news awards for non-metro radio stations. Between 1973 and 1984, WJMA won 18 Associated Press awards. WJMA had many sports newscasts each day as well as a full schedule of local, college and professional play-by-play. There's more information on the sports page.
Digby Solomon and Solomon & Lowe purchased WJMA AM/FM on April 1,1984. In December of 1984, WJMA FM changed to WVJZ, (Z96.7), playing Adult Contemporary music while continuing to simulcast with WJMA AM. Solomon & Lowe sold to Carl Hurlbaus and Capitol Radio Holdings in 1988. The news and sports coverage was reduced and the music took on a more Top 40 flavor with the slogan "Jamin' 96".
After a period of decline, the stations were purchased by Piedmont Communications on January 1, 1993, a group of local business owners. The music format was changed to country with the slogan "Country Mix 96" and the FM call letters were changed back to WJMA in February of 1990.
In June, 2001 a three station shuffle to allow WSIG FM in Mount Jackson, VA, and WREL FM in Lexington, VA, to increase power, WJMA FM moved to 98.9 with a new slogan of "Your Place In The Country". WJMA AM changed call letters WVCV AM and, at the time, featured a satellite delivered oldies music and syndicated talk shows.
In the fall of 2002, Piedmont Communications traded 98.9 to North Carolina station owner Tom Joyner for Joyner's two Culpeper, Virginia stations: WCVA AM (1490 kHz) and WCUL FM (103.1 mHz). At approximately the same time, Piedmont Communications purchased WLSA FM in Louisa, VA. The WLSA call letters were changed to WOJL. On March 1, 2004 the WJMA FM programming was added to the WCUL FM tower on Clark Mountain on the WCUL frequency of 103.1. At midnight on April 15, 2004 WJMA FM at 98.9 was turned off thus ending almost 33 years of an FM station licensed to Orange. While the studios remain in Orange the city of license for WJMA is Culpeper. The WJMA AM call letters were abandoned when the AM station became WVCV. WVCV and WCVA simulcast WJMA FM. WCVA is also a Class 4 AM station.
Please explore this site to see what we've collected. You many leave comments in the guest book or write to the webmaster. Likewise if you have pictures, audio, or memories to contribute, please contact the webmaster. There is a companion groups.io email list for WJMA Alumni and friends. Click this link to go to the Group home page.