Friday, September 26, 2014

Robert Raiford in the 1950s

In 1956, my parents were newly married and in the habit of listening to the WBT radio station from Charlotte, North Carolina in the evening -- a 50,000-watt station you could hear all the way to New York at night. My dad especially liked the evening disc jockey, who called himself Raiford at Random and played classic jazz, including the Chico Hamilton Trio, as they recall.

One night in February, Raiford expressed his opinion about equal rights (one assumes referring to black Americans). While still on the air, he got a phone call from his manager or the station owner, telling him to shut the station down and that he was fired.

He was never heard on the station again.

I wanted to write up this anecdote because it's one of the many small facts of American history that are not available despite the vast amount of information on the interweb.

Raiford is mentioned very briefly on the history page for WBT, which is how I figured out how to spell his name. That led me to his Wikipedia page (he has a Wikipedia page!). Clearly, the firing didn't stop his career. Born in 1927, he's still alive and it sounds like he's even occasionally on the air, offering "liberal political and conservative social commentaries" on the syndicated John Boy and Billy show," whatever that means.

Raiford worked in radio and then television news until the late 1980s, followed by a career as an actor, usually playing judges. (Now I'll have to watch for him in The Handmaid's Tale and Billy Bathgate, if not the three episodes of Matlock he was on.) Sounds like he's still going strong today.

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