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pioneering Chicago radio owner and personality, dies at 95 By William Lee
Chicago Tribune (January 10, 2010)
Wesley W. South, 95, a longtime journalist who was a staple at the
black-owned WVON radio station, died Saturday, Jan. 9, in his home in
Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, according to a statement from the
Mr. South, who was the chairman emeritus of Midway Broadcasting Corp.
and hosted the popular talk program "Hotline," was a pioneering voice in
African-American talk radio.
Mr. South, a former columnist for Chicago's American, began his radio
career with WVON in 1963. The program's first major coup was when it
aired one of the last interviews with civil rights activist Medgar Evers
before he was murdered in June 1963.
Out of WVON's small Brighton Park studio, Mr. South, a veteran of World
War II and a former union activist, interviewed such luminaries as Sen.
Robert Kennedy, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., baseball great Jackie
Robinson and activist Malcolm X, according to the station. One notable
local, however -- Mayor Richard J. Daley -- refused to come on Mr.
South's program, the Tribune reported.
The program's ability to attract political heavyweights and its
willingness to tackle hot-button topics ushered in the station's switch
from music to talk.
In 1975, Mr. South and disc jockey Pervis Spann formed Midway
Broadcasting and acquired WVON. In 1986, Mr. South changed WVON's format
from music to full-time talk, positioning the station as a powerhouse
for community activism and empowerment. The change caused tension
between Mr. South and Spann, who would battle for years over control
over the station.
Mr. South, one of the first African-Americans to graduate from
Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, also wrote for
the Chicago Defender, the Chicago Daily News and Johnson Publishing Co.
Mr. South is survived by his daughter, retired Appellate Judge Leslie
South, and a grandson. His wife, Mildred, preceded him in death.
Services for Mr. South are set for Saturday in the Church of the Good
Shepherd, 5100 S. Prairie Ave., Chicago. A time was still pending.
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