We are grateful to Paul Brown, former NPR News morning anchor and old-time musician, for sharing about his special bond with Ralph Epperson.
Through his example of running a station devoted to reflecting the community’s life back upon itself, Ralph helped me understand the positive power of media. WPAQ affirmed its community’s life, values, and art, and thereby strengthened the community it reflected. That understanding prompted me to continue with radio and guided my entire career. Also Ralph, simply through his example, was constantly asking the question of others, “What are you doing to help make our world better?” Through what he was doing, he reminded me every day of what I came to consider an obligation to try to improve the lives and potential of those around me. I’m sure I fall short as frequently as I succeed in that, but I suppose the effort counts for something at least.
Paul, who started his radio career at WPAQ as news director and operations manager, is pictured here at the station’s original control board, c. 1985.
Photo by Paul Friedman
My friend Rhonda Vincent is the “Queen of Bluegrass”. She sang in her family band when she was a little girl in Missouri. She always dreamed of singing and playing bluegrass music and sharing it with the world.
I first met Rhonda Vincent at the IBMA for my birthday in 2004. I really like Rhonda and her drive with the mandolin. She really makes me feel special when we talk. I feel like one of the guys in the band.
You can have a dream like Rhonda and Ralph and me.
You Must Have a Dream
Special thanks to Stuart Epperson who shares these comments about his brother Ralph with us.
I was born about 15 years after Ralph and my earliest memories were when he was a senior in high school. He was the person we always looked to for leadership and answers to all kinds of questions. He read constantly…all kinds of books. When someone came to our farm house he would ask them questions about everything. He was highly intelligent.
Shortly after Ralph returned home from working on the Naval Labs in Washington during WW II he built a small radio station in an upstairs bedroom…and commenced daily broadcasting. He often interviewed me on the radio calling me by the nickname, PETER RABBIT, which he had given me. I was eight years old at the time. That name stuck for many years…and I loved every minute that little radio station was on the air. I sometimes read the Bible on the air. People were always mentioning they had heard me on the radio.
Then, in 1948, Ralph began operating WPAQ in Mt. Airy. My father sawed out the lumber and built most of the building, being a very good carpenter. I was there during the entire process. I knew then I wanted to be a radio broadcaster. Ralph taught me everything I needed to know with help from Arnold, another older brother who also went into radio. This included cleaning the building, announcing,becoming a disc jockey, selling advertising and actually running a radio station.
His dream was contagious….to do everything in an excellent way..he was a perfectionist. He advised me to first get a radio station for myself….then get more. I still rely on his principles of business life…Christian Principles…
What can I say about Ralph except he was the Greatest Man I’ve ever known!
Stuart Epperson (far left) is co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Salem Media Group. Also pictured are siblings Mary Lee Epperson King, Roy Epperson, Lucy Epperson Bowman, Harry “Arnold” Epperson, Jr. and WPAQ founder Ralph Epperson.
I first met Ralph Epperson at WPAQ in 1995. He told me he worked really hard to build the station so he could put it on the air on February 2, 1948. I remember him telling me that WPAQ was his dream. I will not forget what he said to me. Broadcast: A Man and His Dream is my tribute to Ralph and WPAQ.