Troy’s radio tower dubbed state’s tallest in years past

Published 3:00 am Thursday, February 12, 2015

In 1931, a small independent daytime radio station began operation over the old firehouse on East Walnut Street in Troy. The call letters were WHET and the power was 100 watts.

The owners of the upstart radio station were John P. Hubbard II, Cyril Reddoch and Julian Smith. Among the announcers were John Tillman and Douglas Edwards. Both went on to gain national prominence, Tillman with a major network and Edwards, who made rapid progress as a radio announcer, and later was the anchor for CBS on television.

WHET was not a financial success so Hubbard, Smith and Reddoch moved to Dothan in 1932 and established WAGF, which prospered.

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Troy went on the air again at high noon on Feb. 25, 1947 with WTBF. Reddoch came back to Troy with WTBF.

The new radio station opened in fine fashion. At the luncheon ceremony that marked the opening of the station, the keynote speaker was Lucien Gardner, a Troy native and Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

The station was locally owned and was affiliated with the Mutual Broadcasting System and a member of the Associated Press.

The station went on the air as a 250-watt station, day and night.

On Jan. 3, 1957, the station began broadcasting with a power of 5000 watts day and 500 watts night. The transmitter site was located just off U.S. Highway 29, northeast of Troy, with a three-tower array. Each tower was 200 feet high.

The main studios of WTBF were at the north end of the Troy State University campus.

General managers of the early station were Cyril Reddoch, William Needham and Jess Jordan.

Bob “Pappy” Tolbert was one of the greatest assets of the station. His morning show from 6 until 8 a.m. enjoyed great popularity. His adlibs were widely discussed.

WTBF employed students from the university and many of them went on to careers in broadcasting.

The station was known across the state as the radio station with the tallest radio tower in Alabama.

(Sources: “One Hundred Fifty Years in Pike County Alabama 1821-1971” by Margaret Pace Farmer and The Troy Messenger. Photo from the private postcard collection of Karen Bullard.)