Bill and Martha Jane Becker
Trained as a lawyer and teacher, respectively, Bill and Martha Jane Becker were an unlikely teamin 1954 to take on the management of a financially troubled two-year old AM radio stationin the Logan County coal fields. But they took on the challenge and together built a strong, community service-based station that is still operating in much the same way 56 years later.
Bill was General Manager, and as need necessitated, was often morning man, play-by-play sportscaster, newsman, salesman, and sometimes grass cutter at the transmitter site on Ward Rock Mountain. His distinctive voice became a well-known fixture in Logan County homes largely due to his innovative style and his unwavering integrity. He was responsible for broadcasting Little League Baseball in the 1960s, sometimes as many as 4 games a week. During the Holden No. 22 mine fire disaster in the spring of 1960, he slept in the Island Creek company store and broadcast continuously for 36 hours and then for 10 more days until the fallen miners’ bodies were discovered. He produced a 232 hour radio marathon broadcast in 1962 to raise money to build a garment factory in Logan County. At his request, the entire staff went into the studios to stay until the needed $85,000 had been raised. The jacket factory was built and operated for over 40 years. When an earthen dam broke one early Saturday morning at Buffalo Creek in February, 1972, Bill Becker’s voice on air was the first warning telling the nearby residents to run for their lives. Following that same disaster, his angry broadcast from the site, criticizing state road officials for not getting into the stricken hollow sooner, brought rapid results of badly needed emergency assistance to the area. Those types of actions fulfilled his vision of what community-based radio should be.
Martha Jane hit the ground running as Commercial Manager and never stopped for over 50+ years. Unlike Bill, she had briefly worked in the industry as a single woman, first for WHIS Radio in her native Bluefield, and later for the ZIV Advertising Agency in Cincinnati. Adding a feminine perspective to WVOW’s programming, Martha Jane was the “Christmas Fairy” for over 40 years,supporting her partner’s much beloved program, “Santa Claus.” She sold and hosted a 15-minute live remote broadcast, which is still carried by the same loyal sponsor today. Martha Jane was a fiercely tenacioussalesperson with whom few could compete. Upon Bill’s death in 1995, Martha Jane was named President of Logan Broadcasting, a position she held until her death in July, 2005. Wanting to help preserve the economic future of Logan County, Martha Jane was instrumental in founding the Logan County Charitable and Educational Foundation and served as its President until April, 2005.
The Beckers each were recipients of the West Virginia Broadcasters’ Association Mel Burka Distinguished Broadcaster Award, and they were both inducted posthumously into the West Virginia Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2006.
Today, WVOW is carried on in the same way—dedicated to serving its community first--by a very professional and loyal staff, many of whom the Beckers hired.