WRHI History

December 14th, 1944

The first radio station in Rock Hill, only the 9th in South Carolina and one of only 600 in the country, signed on the air at 5:30 a.m. under the call letters “WRHI.” Thus the dream of founders Jim Beaty, Bill Beaty and Sonny Carroll came to fruition, giving Rock Hill its own radio voice.  The first broadcast in WRHI’s history was also dedicated to the veterans of World War II, a salute by the staff and ownership to Sonny Carroll and all American service members like him.

1945

WRHI begins what would become an over 65-year history of broadcasting high school football with Rock Hill High School Bearcat Football. George Cobb and Bob Carroll were WRHI’s first play-by-play team.

1946

WRHI adds agricultural reports to its daily featured programs at 5 a.m. and 12 noon.

WRHI also produces it first-ever broadcast from the York County Fair in October.

In November, WRHI provides the area’s first ever live election coverage.

1947

Jim Estes and a young, aspiring North Carolinian by the name of Charles Kuralt, who would later go on to have a stellar career with CBS television, takes over the WRHI’s broadcasts of High School Football from Rock Hill’s District Three Stadium.

Buddy Fields, a World War II veteran responsible for the morning show on WRHI for the first 20 years of its history, introduces live big band music as area musicians perform in the radio station’s downtown studios.

1949

Jim Estes becomes the new WRHI High School Football play-by-play announcer.

1950

Nelson Benton begins his career as an announcer at WRHI. Benton, an unknown at the time, used his early broadcasting experience at WRHI to launch a distinguished career, first at the Mutual Radio Network and later at CBS television.

WRHI takes a one-year hiatus from its continuous history of broadcasting High School Football.

1952

Connie Morton, a former area newspaperman and later a banker in Rock Hill, joins the staff at WRHI radio and served as the play-by-play announcer for Clemson Tiger Football on the newly-formed Clemson Broadcasting Network.

18-year-old Charles Kuralt makes his broadcasting debut as a color commentator on WRHI’s Rock Hill High School Bearcat Football. Kuralt goes on to later become a legendary CBS television commentator.

1953

The nascent sport of stock car racing earned an important voice in the area when WRHI becomes a part of the Darlington Raceway Network, and WRHI sportscaster Connie Morton is heard broadcasting stock car races from NASCAR’s first Superspeedway.

1954

New York giant player Dusty Rhodes, a former member of the Rock Hill Chief’s minor league baseball team, is responsible for hitting a game winning home run and a tying home run in the World Series with the Cleveland Indians. He also becomes the series MVP. WRHI helps organize a parade and homecoming in his honor back in Rock Hill.

Connie Morton becomes WRHI’s Sports Director and play-by-play announcer, a position he would hold for almost three decades.

The very first Rock and Roll record is heard over the airwaves on AM-1340 as the nascent musical form is introduced to upstate South Carolina.

1956

The Rock and Roll era’s first bona fide superstar, Elvis Presley, is heard for the first time on the WRHI airwaves with his hit single, “Heartbreak Hotel.”

1957

At WRHI, University of South Carolina Football and Basketball broadcasts become a part of the station’s regular programming lineup during the fall and winter.

1960

At WRHI, the reverend N.T. Strong begins a radio ministry, giving minorities a broadcast medium for their civil rights efforts. The weekly 30-minute broadcast on Sundays continued until reverend Strong’s death in 1996.

1961

The Friendship nine, so named because they were students at the now defunct friendship college, earn notoriety and further the cause of civil rights in Rock Hill when they stage sit-ins at the lunch counters of the Woolworth’s and McCrory’s stores downtown. They become the first civil rights protesters in the country to go to jail for their actions. And WRHI alumnus Nelson Benton returns to Rock Hill with fellow CBS television commentator Dan Rather to cover the Friendship Nine civil rights sit-ins.

1962

Rock Hill’s Come-See-Me festival begins under the leadership of Vicky Albright, Vernon Grant, Johnny Gill and Joe Wise. WRHI co-owner Jim Beaty was selected to serve as the event’s first publicity chairman.

1964

WRHI management signs on with the area’s first FM station. Within a year the station was re-licensed to become WROQ in charlotte. It would be 23 years before FM service returned to Rock Hill with the addition of WRHM-FM.

1966

Les James becomes the morning show host, making him only the third regular morning host in the 22-year history of the radio station. James succeeds buddy fields, who becomes the head of the newly created Broadcast Communications department at Winthrop University.

1971

Bill Beaty, Sr., a co-owner of WRHI since 1944, unexpectedly dies. His brother, Jim Beaty and partner, Harper Gault, assume control their ownership of the radio station.

1972

Northwestern High School opens and football debuts with Doug Echols, a future Rock Hill mayor, as the head football coach and live Trojan Football broadcasts on WRHI.

1974

WRHI becomes the host station for the 26th annual South Carolina Broadcaster’s Association Convention. Over 200 radio and television broadcasters descend on Rock Hill in February as Congressmen Tom Gettys and Lionel van Dearlin, along with FCC Commissioner Bill Ray serve as keynote speakers.

1976

President Gerald Ford brings his campaign to Rock Hill and his live address is heard on WRHI. The nation’s Bicentennial is also celebrated on WRHI with a special patriotic broadcast including music by the Rock Hill Elks Club Mixed Chorus.

1979

At WRHI, the station mascot, Rocky the Wonder Dog, is welcomed by Rock Hill mayor Emmett Jerome with a key to the city as Rocky makes his first-ever appearance. WRHI holds a 35th anniversary celebration at O’Sullivans disco in downtown Rock Hill.

Catawba Academy which later becomes Westminster Catawba Academy, has its football broadcasts heard on WRHI for the first time.

1980

WRHI brings popular national disc jockey Wolfman Jack to Rock Hill for personal appearances and a charity disco dance for the American Cancer Society and to introduce his weekly syndicated show on WRHI.

At WRHI, Ronald Reagan becomes one of the first guests on the new straight talk show, hosted by “The Morning Show” host, Bill Curry.

1982

When the Rock Hill area is thrust into 15 percent unemployment following the closing of textile mills and a loss of thousands of jobs, WRHI works with the Chamber of Commerce to launch programs aimed at diversifying the area economy.

1983

In Rock Hill, WRHI creates two long-standing children’s events. With the help of the Rock Hill YMCA, WRHI begins the annual Easter Egg Classic with over 3,000 eggs hidden at Fewell Park. In an effort to make trick or treating safer, WRHI also partners with the Rock Hill parks and recreation department to stage a Halloween Parade and costume contest in the town center mall. The event first moved to Cherry park and then back to downtown Rock Hill in 2001 to become the city’s fall Harvest Festival.

1984

WRHI General Manager Allan Miller and Maryland broadcaster Manning Kimmel form “Our Three Sons Broadcasting, LLP” and purchase WRHI and WFLB in Fayetteville, N.C., becoming only the third owners group in the station’s history.

WRHI celebrates its 40th anniversary with a Gala Affair at the Rock Hill Country Club.

1985

WRHI begins the Come-See-Me Festival tailgate party, which evolves into the festival’s premier event.

In August, over 5,000 people turn out for a live WRHI remote broadcast featuring NASCAR driver Bill Elliott, just one week before he wins NASCAR’s first million dollar purse at Darlington’s Southern 500 race.

1986

A two-decades Christmas tradition begins at WRHI with the annual Toys for Happiness campaign, bringing Christmas toys to underserved children in York County.  The program continues today in partnership with the United Way, taking in tens of thousands of donated toys annually.

1987

Our Three Sons Broadcasting purchases WLCM-AM and WPAJ-FM in Lancaster. WPAJ becomes WRHM-FM and moves to a country music format.

WRHI begins a 17-year fundraising tradition by partnering with the Museum of York county and artist Vernon Grant in creating an annual Christmas ornament based on Grant’s art.

Award-winning sports announcer Bill Rice becomes the fifth morning show host in WRHI’s history.

1988

The second annual WRHI spring Homemaker’s Show is held at the Winthrop Coliseum, attracting over 10,000 area listeners for a day-long event of free exhibits, prizes and shows. The popular annual event continued for eight years and featured such notable celebrities as Cajun cook and humorist Justin Wilson and soap opera stars Walt Willey and John Laprino.

WRHI and its sister fm station, Interstate 107, debut the “High School Football Tonight” pre-game show, which wins the first of over a dozen broadcast awards.

1989

Hurricane Hugo was doing unforetold millions of dollars of damage as the storm surge slammed into Rock Hill. And WRHI, being knocked off the air when power went out due to the tremendous hurricane that was as big in area as the entire state of South Carolina, stayed on the air for several days at its broadcast studios powered by a generator. This made WRHI one of only a handful of broadcast media on the air in the Charlotte market.  The staff stayed on the air, becoming a lifeline for area residents by forgoing commercials and opening phone lines so that people could connect with others needing assistance and comfort.

1990

At WRHI, the studios at 142 Confederate Avenue are doubled in size.  The Interstate 107 tower is rebuilt and moved, power is doubled, and the listening area is increased to better serve Rock Hill and Charlotte.

Both WRHI and Interstate 107 become affiliates of the ABC Radio Network and national news commentator Paul Harvey joins both station’s regular programming schedule.

1991

At WRHI, the Prom Pledge program begins in area high schools, urging students to stay sober and alive. WSOC-TV also opens its South Carolina News Bureau at Our Three Sons headquarters at the Broadcast House on North Confederate Avenue.

1992

WRHI enters into an agreement with Charlotte Knights General Manager and former NFL and North Carolina State great Roman Gabriel to become the flagship station for the new triple and minor league baseball team playing at the new Knights castle.

1993

23-year old John Collins becomes only the sixth morning man in the history of WRHI.

1994

In Rock Hill, WRHI was presenting the annual Fourth of July fireworks celebration at the Galleria Mall when US Air Flight 1016 crashed in nearby Charlotte, killing everyone aboard. The national transportation safety board later concluded wind shear was responsible for the disaster.

WRHI celebrates its 50th anniversary at the recently remodeled station studios at the old Andrew Jackson hotel in downtown Rock Hill.

WVSZ-FM in Chesterfield is also added to the Our Three Sons family at this time.

1995

WRHI moves its tower from south Rock Hill to north Rock Hill to better serve Fort Mill and Tega Cay.

WRHI and the YMCA break the record for the largest Easter Egg hunt in the world with over 130,000 eggs and 15,000 participants at Cherry Park.

The Carolina Panthers begin their first season and sister station Interstate 107 introduces “Panther Roundtable” with Panther player and host Gerald Williams.

1996

After several years of mostly news-talk programming, WRHI’s format is changed to an all news-all talk format. The change also includes the extension of broadcasting hours from 20 to a full 24 hours.

Fm 94.3 Is added to the Our Three Sons Broadcasting family, and the station begins the process of moving from analog to digital broadcasting technology.

1997

A new WRHI tower, the first since the original one went into use in 1944, is erected in north Rock Hill in order to follow the city’s population growth and allow WRHI to better serve both Tega Cay and Fort Mill. The new tower replaces the old one that was in south Rock Hill.

1998

In only WRHI’s second full year in the 24-hour news – talk format, the station sweeps eight out of ten awards from the Radio and Television News Directors’ Association of the Carolinas.

1999

Steven Stone is hired at WRHI as the morning show host, becoming only the seventh morning host in the station’s history.

WRHI and Interstate 107 pioneer the simulcast of live streaming audio of station programming, including high school football games, on the Internet.

2000

The South Carolina Republican Party propels George W. Bush to the Republican Presidential nomination and ultimately the contested Presidential election over former Vice President Al Gore. Both candidates are invited to Northwestern high school in Rock Hill. Bush appears at the school and a public rally at York Tech’s Baxter Hood Center. WRHI carries the broadcast featuring the future president.

2001

WRHI is contracted to become the flagship station for the Shrine Bowl game of the Carolinas Radio Network when the game moves to Rock Hill’s District Three Stadium. WRHI is successful in expanding the struggling network from three to 51 stations in North and South Carolina.

2002

WRHI celebrates 50 consecutive years of live High School Football broadcasts, establishing a South Carolina Broadcasters’ Association record. The Rock Hill High School games were actually broadcast on WRHI in 1945 with a one-year hiatus in 1951. In recent years, WRHI has received 18 industry awards for High School Football broadcast coverage, featuring no less than eleven SCBA Radio Sportscasters of the Year awards.

2003

WRHI and Interstate 107 establish a yearly Rock Hill City trophy for the Northwestern – Rock Hill High School football game. Both schools receive a monetary honorarium and the winner has the privilege of keeping the trophy for the next year.

At Our Three Sons Broadcasting, both WRHI and sister station, WRHM-FM, have the interior studios and infrastructure completely rebuilt and expanded for service well into the 21st Century.

2004

WRHI celebrates 60 years of service to the York County community with one-of-a-kind promotions and special programming. The 60th anniversary celebration, attended by WRHI alumni, local leaders and dignitaries from across the Piedmont, marks 100 years of broadcasting between WRHI and WRHM.

2005

WRHI wins its first-ever “Radio Station of the Year” award at the South Carolina Broadcaster’s Association summer convention in Hilton Head, S.C.

2006

WRHI wins its second-in-a-row “Radio Station of the Year” award at the South Carolina Broadcaster’s Association summer convention in Hilton Head, S.C.

2007

On March 2, WRHI becomes the first am station in the US to rebroadcast its programming on an FM translator frequency, 94.3. Fifth district congressman John Spratt of York persuades the Federal Communications commission to waive its long-standing rule regarding the prohibition of such a broadcast.

WRHI covers the dedication of the Historical Marker at McCrory’s store, a newly-renovated restaurant in downtown Rock Hill. McCrory’s was the site of the 1961 “Friendship Nine” sit-ins that sparked progression in civil rights in York County, and ultimately, the nation.

In November, Jay Taylor, former news sidekick to “The Morning Show,” takes over the reigns to WRHI’s Signature morning program. Taylor, a native of Gastonia, is the eighth man to hold the position in WRHI history.

WRHI’s sister station, Interstate 107, is upgraded to a digital, High Definition transmitter, allowing listeners to tune in and, using a HD receiver, listen to crystal-clear CD-quality audio. The upgrade also allows Interstate 107 to supplement the signal with additional audio feeds (for example, classic country or beach music) to HD radio listeners as well.

2008

WRHI wins its third “Radio Station of the Year” award at the South Carolina Broadcaster’s Association summer convention in Hilton Head, S.C.

2009

In January, WRHI’s AM (1340) transmitter receives an upgrade at the tower site in North Rock Hill. The upgrade replaces the former transmitter, installed in the early 1980s.

In January at the South Carolina Association of Broadcaster’s Winter Convention in Columbia, S.C., Our Three Sons Broadcasting Managing Partner Allan M. Miller is inducted into the Association’s Hall of Fame. Miller’s family, friends, colleagues and business associates were on hand for the occasion, including a 15-minute video presentation of Miller’s broadcast career authored by Winthrop Mass Communication professors Haney Howell and Mark Nortz.

In February, after 24 years of affiliation, Broadcast Legend Paul Harvey passes away at age 90 at a hospital in Phoenix, Ariz. Havery’s morning, midday, and evening broadcasts are replaced with former Arkansas Governor and Republican Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee’s “Huckabee Report.”

In May, WRHI replaces the full-fledged Radio Circular with an abbreviated version accompanied by online YouTube advertisements. The online advertisements, paired with “The Phrase that Pays” contest, garnered  over a thousand individual visits to the videos and brought the annual contest into a new, digital, era.

In June, change came to “The Morning Show” as Sheila Caldwell joins the program as the co-host and Andrew Kiel takes over the reigns as the news anchor/reporter. Caldwell, a mother of three grown children, adds a new dynamic to the program, as does Kiel, a recent graduate of Winthrop University.

In August, “The Morning Show” is re-branded as “Palmetto Mornings” with hosts Jay Taylor and Sheila Caldwell. The Palmetto Mornings name was chosen to provide a unique identity for the program and was specifically designed to better connect the programming with the rich history of South Carolina. With the change came a modified morning show “clock,” giving the hosts more time to welcome guests and discuss the important issues facing the community.

Also in August at the annual Summer Convention of the South Carolina Broadcasters Association in Columbia, WRHI picked up it’s fourth Radio Station of the Year Award.

In December, WRHI celebrated 65 years of service to York County with an open house on December 14. “Palmetto Mornings” signed on the air with the original sign-on from 1944 including the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. Local dignitaries and members of the business community dropped in throughout the morning; many of them sharing their success stories and favorite memories of the station.

2010

In January, Chief Meteorologist Jerry Peterson was honored with the Honorary Life Membership Award by the South Carolina Broadcasters Association at the Winter Convention in Columbia. Peterson, along with his wife, Melba, children, grandchildren and extended family, as well as WRHI staff, were present for the occasion. Peterson’s son, Greg, evening news anchor at WPMI-TV in Mobile, Ala., produced this video in honor of his father.

In April, the Charlotte Knights returned to WRHI as the radio home of Charlotte’s AAA-league baseball team. Play-by-play host Matt Sweirad provides inning-by-inning coverage of the Knights, who earlier in the year, signed a four-year contract with York County to stay at their current stadium in Fort Mill.