Memphis Radio Legend At the Country's First Black Radio Station, Bobby O’Jay Dead at 68
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Memphis Radio Legend At the Country’s First Black Radio Station, Bobby O’Jay Dead at 68

(WDIA)

A radio personality at the country’s first Black radio station in Memphis has recently passed away.

According to The Memphis Commercial Appeal, radio personality Bobby O’Jay, who was on Memphis’ WDIA, died at 68. His cause of death was not mentioned.

The station confirmed his passing on its Facebook page.

“It is with great sadness we share the passing of the Legendary Bobby O’Jay. Bobby was a trailblazer in the industry as well as a legacy in the community for multiple decades. We offer our deepest condolences to his family, friends and loyal listeners during this extremely difficult time. He was such an important part of WDIA and the City of Memphis, words cannot express how truly missed he will be.”

 

His death surprised many as he was on the air on Tuesday morning. He was inducted into The Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame and was also the program director at WDIA.

“Bobby was steady; he was steadfast,” said one of his friends, Fred Jones, the founder of the Southern Heritage Classic. “The people in this community respected Bobby. No matter where you’d go, you’d hear people ask: ‘Did you hear what Bobby O’Jay said this morning?’ His reach was strong across the whole breadth of the community. Few can maintain that kind of impact in the radio world, which is always changing and evolving.”

The mayor of Memphis, Jim Strickland, also acknowledged O’Jay on his Twitter account.

O’Jay stated that when he was 14, he received a visit from his first cousin, Melvin Jones, who arrived at his home in Batesville in a brand-new burgundy 1967 Mustang and a sharp set of clothes. Jones was a developing radio DJ and future radio executive. At this point, O’Jay knew he wanted to be involved in radio.

The legendary broadcaster went on to get his formal radio training from the Institute of Broadcast Arts in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He started his successful career in 1972, where he worked at radio stations in Montgomery, Alabama; Milwaukee; Flint, Michigan; Chicago; Houston; and Dallas.

In 1974, he moved to Memphis and started working at WLOK-AM 134, and in 1983, O’Jay went to work for the first Black radio station in the country, WDIA. In 1949, WDIA became the first radio station in the U.S. geared toward Black audiences.

In 2018, he was inducted into the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame.

“I leave a legacy behind for my family,” O’Jay stated at that time. “Here’s a guy who came from the cotton fields of Mississippi, but I’ve managed to work at some of the biggest stations in America. I have met some of the biggest stars in America. Even though there was some ups and downs, it’s been more fun than anything.”


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