Ben Franklin, Oral History (part 01)

1948-Ben Franklin inside WJLD Bess Sup Hwy .jpg
Ben Franklin 1.pdf


Ben Franklin, Oral History (part 01)


Ben Franklin (b. March 12, 1919, Lees Vernon Parish, LA; d. May 10, 1998, Calera, AL) was a radio electronics engineer and eventually a station owner (WBYE in Calera) with a 60 year history in the field. He turned the transmitter of WJLD AM 1400 on for the first time in the spring of 1942 and shared a treasure trove of memories in over 5 hours of interviews. He passed in 1998 and Gary Richardson and Bob Friedman were pall bearers at his funeral.


Ben Franklin
Bob Friedman


Birmingham Black Radio Museum


November 03, 1993


Joe Wright
Emily Bibb






Bob Friedman


Ben Franklin


Transcript from audio snippet:

Bob: That’s one thing that I don’t really understand because when I grew up, when I remember FM coming in in the early ‘60s… but it was around in the late 40s!

Ben: It was late 40s yeah.

Bob: But nobody ever talked about FM. I can’t imagine what it was like… I mean somebody should write a book about the first 10 years of FM…

Ben: that would be fascinating but, sorry to say, there was a lot of stations that went on the air went off.

Bob: I bet.

Ben: Johnston was hot to get on the air that’s one thing that Umbach pointed out to Johnston, he told him FM never going to arrive, FM never going to arrive, he used to say and they were putting up a mailbox up there for that place on the mountain and they were trying to decide what to put on the mailbox and Umbach says, “put Johnston’s Folly on it.”

Bob: Johnston’s Folly. That’s funny, but JLN, what was it, I have no idea what it playing back in the 40s 1948 it went on the air right? What did it… simulcast AM or what?

Ben: Some of the time


Full Interview: 5 minutes
Audio Snippet: 2 minutes


Ben Franklin and Bob Friedman, “Ben Franklin, Oral History (part 01),” The Birmingham Black Radio Museum, accessed September 25, 2023,

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