History of WVOW, Logan

The picture shows Bill Becker. The following history was supplied by the station.

Three men, two of them native Logan Countians and the third a former governor, made application for a license for a second radio station with its place of license to be Logan, WV in the late forties. Their statement of need expressed the idea that the existing owner of the then Republican Logan Banner, was in fact another voice for Republican issues in the county; therefore the second radio station was to be a voice for the Democratic Party.

Those three men were Chauncey Browning, Sr., who later became Attorney General and Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court, Grover Combs, a Triadelphia District businessman and property owner, and Clarence W. Meadows of Oak Hill, former governor of the State of West Virginia.

The business community and the community in general backed the venture wholeheartedly, so on May 8, 1952, WVOW went on the air with the late Stuart O'Dell, who began his career as morning man at WHIS in Bluefield, as its first manager. Its second manager was Hank Diefenback, who came to Logan from a managerial job in northern West Virginia.

The studios were spacious; its large auditorium soon became the gathering place for local Saturday night square dances, civic meetings and holiday parties, sock hops and square dances, as well as private parties.

Bill and Martha Jane Becker, as general manager and commercial manager respectively, joined the station in 1954.

In December 1959, WVOW moved its operation to the Professional Building on Main Street, and ten years later began operating WVOW - FM at 101.9.

Innovative may best describe the Beckers' approach to providing what the public soon became accustomed to expect. Becker is still identified in all state and some national broadcast groups as the man who innovated Little League broadcasts in the state (carrying as many as 4 games a week at one time) and the man who sold a remote of "Sputnik" crossing Logan County on its maiden flight.

Before telethons became popular methods for fund raising, WVOW conducted a 232 hour marathon broadcast in March 1962 to raise money for the Logan County Development Corporation to build a garment factory at Phico, Logan County.

At the request of the manager, Bill Becker, the entire staff went into the studios to stay until the community had raised the $85,000 necessary to bring a garment factory to Logan.

Always community-minded, WVOW has conducted various fund raising events benefiting the American Heart Association over the years.

WVOW has been affiliated with United Press International since 1952 and last December joined the ABC Contemporary Network News with Paul Harvey and Howard Cosell.

For more than 30 years, WVOW has broadcast Cincinnati Reds baseball, West Virginia University basketball and football, along with a comprehensive schedule of little league games, including Logan Little League State Championships in 1964-65-70-and 80, and their participation in national competition, with the result that more than 200 sporting events are broadcast live annually on WVOW.

A former president of the WVBA, Bill Becker and his wife Martha Jane Becker, a member of the WVBA Board of Directors (1985-1987), are the first husband and wife to have been honored as West Virginia Distinguished Broadcasters.

WVOW proudly recognizes former members of its radio family who have progressed in their chosen profession, such as Jack Harris, now part of the "K-Zoo on WEIF, St. Petersburg, Florida, Bob Smith, WSAZ-TV in Huntington, Ernie Gorgia at WKEE radio in Huntington and Chuck Bailey, Assistant Professor of Speech at Marshall University and faculty adviser, WMUL-FM, campus radio station.

Larry "Speedy" Bevins, manager, is proud of the current members of the WVOW family, who represent 165 years total commitment to the station. As Speedy says, "Our WVOW family is pleased to be a part of the listeners' families every day."

Additional Notes

The 1956 Broadcasting Yearbook indicates WVOW went on the air in 1952. It shows the station operating on 1290 kHz with 5000 watts day, 1000 watts night, and two directional patterns. The licensee is Logan Broadcasting Corporation. The address is Bus Terminal Building. Staff are as follows: Dr. H. H. Farley, president; William P. Becker, general manager; Martha Jane Becker, commercial manager and co-program manager; Audie Albright, program director and co-program manager and woman's director; John Lamont, chief engineer; Jack Mallin, news director; and Ed O'Hare, sales director.

The 1961-62 Broadcasting Yearbook indicates the station went on the air in 1958. It shows the station operating on 1290 kHz with 5000 watts day, 1000 watts night, and two directional patterns, but a construction permit for 5000 watts non-directional in the daytime. The licensee is Logan Broadcasting Corporation (original owner). Staff are as follows: William P. Becker, general manager; Martha Jane Becker, commercial manager; Audie Albright, program director; Frank Allender, chief engineer.

The 1969 Broadcasting Yearbook indicates WVOW went on the air in May 1954. It shows the station operating on 1290 kc, with 5000 watts day, 1000 watts at night, and a directional pattern at night. The address is Box 1921, Logan 25601. The licensee is Logan Bcstg Corp. Staff are as follows: W. Carson Browning Jr., president; William P. Becker, general manager; Martha Jane Becker, commercial manager; Martin Backus, news director; Frank L. Allender, chief engineer.

The 1986 Broadcasting Yearbook indicates WVOW went on the air in May 1954. The licensee is Logan Broadcasting Corp. Station personnel are as follows: William P. Becker, president and general manager; Larry Bevins, station manager; Martha Jane Becker, commercial and program manager; Bill Sheridan, program director; Dan Fraley, music director; Bob Weisner, news director; James Justice, chief engineer. The yearbook indicates that WVOW-FM went on the air in August 1969. It shows the station operating on 101.9 MHz with 15 kw horizontal and 1.35 kw vertical, with an antenna height 830 feet above average terrain. It indicates the AM and FM stations were simulcasting 100%.

In 2005, WVOW alum Jack Harris was heard on WFLA radio in Tampa. His biography on the station's web site included the following: "I was born and reared ... in a small town in West (By God!) Virginia. How small was it? The 7-11 closed at 5. There was only one massage parlor, and it was self-serve. The sewage treatment plant was a two-holer with a moon on the door. I graduated Valedictorian at Logan High School (with a D+ average) .... My radio career began just out of high school in Logan at WVOW (they were looking for a newscaster with a high squeaky voice)."

Radio Station Owner Passes

The following article appeared in the Logan Banner on July 18, 2005.

Martha Jane Becker, the owner of WVOW Radio and one of the most community-minded activists, passed away Friday at her home in Justice Addition of Logan at the age of 88.

Martha Jane Becker left her mark on Logan County in many ways, from the foundation of the first Community Action Program in the state, to The Aracoma Story which celebrates Logan's historical heritage, to forming the Logan Charitable and Educational Foundation which provides funding for scholarships and community services.

Few people have had the impact on Logan County as Martha Jane Becker, who came here from Beckley following WWII. Her accomplishments have led many to look upon her as "The First Mother of Logan County."

William and Martha Becker came to Logan County in 1950. William was from Bramwell, W.Va., and Martha Jane was from Bluefield.

Bill Becker did not begin working at WVOW until October 1954, but Martha was there from the beginning.

The FCC granted the station its license in 1948. The first two employees were engineer William Stone and Chauncy Brown Jr. who became a member of the company's board of directors. Bill and Martha arrived in 1950 and set up shop for the station, submitted trial run tests and sent reports to the FCC. Bill Becker was the manager of the Holden Theater and oversaw the building of the new Guyann Theater located where WVOW is now, on Main Street.

The couple had a hard time finding a home in the early 1950s when housing was at a premium in Logan. She went to Clarence Frey (publisher of The Logan Banner at that time) to see if he could help the Beckers find a house.

"One thing led to another until Bill went to work at WLOG as commercial manager, following, at that time, the longest coal strike in Logan County history," she recalled in an interview done in 2004 with The Logan Banner. She worked at WLOG until 1952. From January to June Martha Jane Becker tried to write a historical pageant for the city's centennial while out of work (there were no maternity leaves to have a child in those days).

Becker became society editor for The Logan Banner. She knew former Bluefield disc jockey Stuart O'Dell who was manager at WVOW. The station went through a couple of managers until Browning, the stockholders and Carl Austin asked Bill Becker to come on board as manager and for Martha Jane to come aboard as a salesperson.

"They were tired of radio men; they wanted a businessman with a legal education," she said. "Now I was happy with what I was doing."

At first, Becker was unsettled, fearing that her husband would be dissatisfied and want to leave the station. To her surprise, he came up with solid ideas for programming.

"From 1954 pretty much through the (rest of the) 1950s, it was hard going," she said. "When the board told us they were paying off $20,000 in bills owed, we didn't realize they meant only local bills."

There had been no withholding taxes, lawyers statements or rent paid from the beginning. Commissions also had not been paid. The threat of a crackdown from the federal government was hanging over the Beckers' heads like the fabled Sword of Damocles.

Local advertising rates were at a low, despite the booming economy of the times.

"Agree to run 100 spots a month for three months, you paid 70 cents a spot," Becker remembered. "In order to sell the football season, the basketball season had to be thrown in for nothing. To say it was nip or tuck was putting it mildly."

WLOG AM talked that station's management into giving up its FM license, meaning Logan had two AM radio stations competing against the growing television trend and a well established newspaper for advertisers. Bill Becker countered with new programs - local news that competed with The Logan Banner; editorializing on controversial issues and allowing people the chance to respond with countering views; and play-by-play of local sports like Little League. Becker also became the corporate spokesperson for then new Island Creek Coal.

On March 8, 1960, when the Holden 22 Mine disaster occurred, Bill Becker went straight to work -at the mines, not the studio- and stayed 36 hours covering the tragedy. Following a break, Bill Becker returned to the mine disaster and he covered the tragedy for WVOW and other stations for 11 days. The effect of the total coverage literally changed the station's floundering fortune.

"As far as WVOW was concerned, it was total audience. You see, Island Creek - being a small business as coal corporations were at that time in a small town - had no public relations staff or phone exchange set up to answer families' calls about who was working in the mine when the roof collapsed. So, WVOW became the only established bridge between the coal company and the trapped miners' families. But the general public went to bed leaving their radios on. TV viewers had their old radios repaired," she recalled.

From the beginning, the couple became extremely active in the community. They raised two daughters, Jane Delbridge, who is a municipal court judge in Alexandria, Va.; and Beverly Bivins of Charlottesville, who was involved for several years in the administration of the Washington Hospital Center.

"Mother and father were both true believers in the importance of community work. It was an exciting time," Bivins said of her youth in Logan County watching her parents help the community grow through community activities. "They were involved in everything."

Many people are aware that Becker was on the board of directors which revived the Aracoma Story in 1976. At that time, it was performed on a makeshift stage at the pool. Becker and others made sure it had a permanent home in the form of the amphitheater where it now is a tradition in Logan County. What many people may not know is Becker's involvement went back further.

"She was involved with the Logan Community Players who put on performances at the little theater," Bivins said. "But back in the 1950s she was instrumental in the foundation of the Aracoma Story when it was written. In 1952, it was Logan's centennial and she was very involved with it. At one point, they wanted her to write it but she was not into that sort of writing."

Bivins said her parents were involved in all sorts of community activities which they believed help bind people together.

Becker was a regent with the Daughters of the American Revolution, and had garnered many honors and awards in her lifetime for her service to Logan County, including being named "West Virginia Broadcaster of the Year."

In February 1962, the Beckers became involved in a crusade. Eighty-five-thousand dollars was needed to bring a garment factory to Logan County. A Logan County Development Corporation was formed and hired a fund raising company to oversee the efforts. Bill Becker, Buddy Ammar, the staff of WVOW and The Logan Banner agreed to do a marathon to raise the money.

The Beckers and others realized that coal may be king, but there was room for more businesses. The 1960 census showed the county had slipped from 77,000 people in 1950 to 61,000 in 1960. The LCDC brought outsiders in to inspect the region and see its potential - after a flood dropped two feet of mud on the town. The investors liked what they saw of the community's spirit. The WVOW marathon began at 10 p.m. on March 21. At 5:30 p.m. on March 28, the marathon finished with $85,000 in the till. The Logan Manufacturing company kept going from 1962 to 1992 when it closed its doors.

Martha Jane Becker was involved with many different public works that continued to thrive and aid the community in many ways. PRIDE in Logan County is but one of many examples which thrives and aids the community to this day.

Martha Jane Becker helped secure the Sears General Federation of Women's Clubs award in 1962 for a community improvement project which helped lead to the PRIDE in Logan Inc., organization, which in turn was one of the nation's first community action programs started during the war on poverty.

It started through charitable work that Becker was involved in and became a pilot program in the state, leading to the federal government to organizing community action programs based upon it.

"We went to a women's conference in Morgantown and came back with the information," Martha Jane Becker said. "Several organizations won national recognition, such as the Elk's Club. Buddy Ammar was the person who paid the most attention to it, and I knew Buddy and knew they won that. We brought everything together and that was the beginning of the Council of PRIDE, when we won that award."

Becker was long associated with the Charitable and Educational Foundation.

"People wanted to guarantee good things for their children and grandchildren. That is how the foundations were formed," Becker said.

In 2001, Martha Jane Becker was honored when the building which currently houses the Logan County Chamber of Commerce and the Logan County Charitable and Educational Foundation was named after her and her husband.

The building was donated by the Eastern Division of BB&T in 1999 and is the home of the Chamber of Commerce on the first floor. The second floor hosts the Logan County Charitable and Educational Foundation.

The honor is appropriate - when William "Bill" and Martha Jane Becker came to Logan County they became very active in the community and the chamber. The Charitable and Educational Foundation is a nonprofit association which invests money from donors and uses the earnings for scholarships and community projects.

"It goes back to my interest in the Chamber of Commerce," Becker said in an earlier interview. "I have always been interested in the Chamber of Commerce and community work. In late 1996 early 1997, I came up with the idea of starting an educational foundation for the good of the young people of Logan County."

Becker's Foundation supports a variety of causes through seven restricted funds and one unrestricted fund which aids charities which otherwise would have no sponsoring agency.

-Interviews with Martha Jane Becker and her daughter, Beverly Bivins were conducted by Staff Writer J.D. Charles, who also wrote most of the biographical information in this story. Story created Monday, July 18, 2005.

Martha Jane Becker (1916-2005)

The following obituary appeared in the Charleston Gazette.

Martha Jane Becker, 88, of Logan, died Friday, July 15, 2005, at her home. Mrs. Becker, President of the Logan Broadcasting Corporation, was preceded in death by her husband, William P. "Bill" Becker. Mrs. Becker is survived by her daughters, the Honorable Jane P. Delbridge of Alexandria, Va., and Beverly A. Bivins of Charlottesville, Va.

Born August 2, 1916, in Bluefield, W.Va., to Ben and Mabel Shaner Williams, Mrs. Becker was a graduate of Beaver High School and West Virginia University, where she was a member of the Debating Society and the Delta Gamma Sorority. She worked for WHIS Radio in Bluefield as a copywriter and salesperson from 1937 to 1939, and for ZIV advertising agency in Cincinnati from 1939 to 1940. Mrs. Becker came to Logan for the first time in 1940 and worked for WLOG Radio and the Logan Banner as an account executive. She taught English and speech at Bramwell (WV) High School from 1940 until her marriage to William Pritchard Becker of Bramwell in August 1944. Mr. and Mrs. Becker returned to Logan in 1950. She became Commercial Manager of WVOW Radio in 1954 and was named President of Logan Broadcasting Corporation in 1995, following the death of her husband.

Mrs. Becker was the author of Mountain Roots Branching Out, Diary of a Millionaire Coal Town, and co-author of the History of West Virginia Broadcasting. She wrote numerous programs for radio broadcast, including the King Koal series in 1940, and the "Togs 'n Teens" show broadcast live from the Jack and Jill Shop in the early 1950's. She was the "Storybook Lady," the host for many years of "Magic Moments of Fashion at McCormick's," and she wrote a column for three years in the Logan Banner "Shopping the Town with Martha Jane." Mrs. Becker was also a close associate of Santa Claus and "The Christmas Fairy" on WVOW radio for almost 50 years.

She was active in Logan County civic associations, serving as president of the Logan County League of Women Voters, Logan Woman's Club, and Logan County Chamber of Commerce. She was a past regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Princess Aracoma Chapter. She was a past member of the Board of Directors of Logan County PRIDE, Inc. Community Action Program. In 1962, Mrs. Becker co-authored a Logan County "Community Achievement Report" which won a $10,000 national award from the General Federated Women's Clubs. In a1986, the West Virginia Broadcasters awarded Mrs. Becker the "Mel Burka Distinguished Broadcaster Award." In 1996, she received the "Distinguished Service Award" from the Logan County Chamber of Commerce.

In 1952, Mrs. Becker was publicity director for the original "Aracoma Story" outdoor drama in conjunction with Logan's Bicentennial celebration. She was instrumental in reviving "The Aracoma Story" in 1976 in the Chief Logan State Park and served on its Board of Directors for many years.

Always interested in the theater, Becker was an organizer and director of the Bluefield (WV) Little Theatre, a member of the Cincinnati (Ohio) Players, and a charter member of the Logan Community Players, acting in and directing numerous productions. She was the first Logan County Belle.

In 1997, Mrs. Becker was instrumental in forming the Logan County Charitable and Educational Foundation, of which she served as President until April 2005.

In addition to her daughters, Mrs. Becker is survived by her sons-in-law, Wilfred R. Delbridge, and Julian M. Bivins Jr.; five grandsons, Theodore R. Delbridge, M.D., Thomas C. Delbridge, Geoffrey A. Delbridge, Cary M. Delbridge and William Ryan Delbridge; and five great-grandchildren. She is also survived by her sister, Mrs. Barbara Lilly of Bluefield, W.Va.; sisters-in-law, Mrs. Margaret Ann Boyer of Woodstock, Va., and Mrs. Newton Roberts Jr. of Concord, N.C.; brothers-in-law, Creighton D. Lilly of Bluefield, W.Va., and Frank McDermott of Midlothian, Va.; and nine nieces and nephews and their families.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, July 20, 2005, at the First Presbyterian Church of Logan. The Rev. Lee McDermott will be officiating. Friends may call from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, July 19, 2005, at Honaker funeral Home in Logan, and one hour prior to services at the church. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Logan County Charitable & Educational Foundation, PO Box 1367, Logan, WV 25601.

Pallbearers will be Cary Matthew Delbridge, William Ryan Delbridge, Theodore Richard Delbridge, Geoffrey Adam Delbridge, Frank McDermott Jr., and Stuart C. Lilly.

Honorary pallbearers will be E.J. Wood, Edward Eiland, Willie Akers, George Kostas, Vernon P. Ferrell, Bill Sheridan, Larry Bevins, and Bob Weisner.

For email condolences, please go to www.honakerfh.com and click on the Martha Jane Becker link at the bottom of the page.

Honaker Funeral Home in Logan is in charge of the services.

Logan County Will Soon Be Without
Its Most Veteran Broadcaster and Radio Personality

This article was retrieved from the WVOW web site in Nov. 2015.

At the end of November, Larry “Speedy” Bevins will be leaving WVOW and relocating to Putnam County to work as an Allstate Insurance Agent.

Bevins says it may come as a surprise that he will not remain in the broadcasting field. He says there is no other radio station he would ever work for because it would never compare to WVOW which is a blueprint for what hometown radio should be.

Bevins' career at WVOW Radio began in October of 1972, his senior year at Logan High School. He was promoted to Station Manager in 1981.

He says broadcasters are a special tight-knit group and there's nobody like them.

As for what he will miss the most? Bevins says, “In Logan County you know everybody and no matter where you go, whether it's the grocery store, bank or wherever, there will always be someone to talk to or someone you know. Those are the things you just won't find when you leave small town radio.”

Bevins has been the host of every show or type of broadcast on WVOW.

He is a past president of the West Virginia Broadcasters Association and worked as an analyst with the MetroNews Radio Network.

He was also on site at the Aracoma Alma #1 mine disaster where his broadcasts were followed by tens of thousands in West Virginia and Kentucky and were heard all over the world on the ABC Radio Network.

Bevins says there is a great future in store for the coalfields and for WVOW.

Bevins’ 43 years of continuous work at a single radio station is an extreme rarity in the broadcast business and is matched by few in the industry in any company or region. WVOW Program Director Jay Nunley will assume the position of General Manager upon Bevins’ departure.

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