FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – It’s touted as one of the hottest radio stations in Fort Wayne, but HOT 107.9 wasn’t always HOT 107.9. The numbers used to be synonymous with Fort Wayne’s first urban contemporary radio station. It had the same call letters but instead of being HOT, it was FOXY.
“Oh yeah, FOXY 107.9, Summit City Soul!,” reflected long time radio personality B.J. Steele. He was part of the FOXY magic. “It was fun. When he gave the job of programming director to me he said it’s yours now don’t screw it up. I said okay,” laughed Steele. “He let us know it’s Louie’s way or no way. People figured it out pretty soon. But he was fair.”
Steele is referring to the man who started WJFX, FOXY 107.9 from the ground up, Louis Dinwiddie. “I never could understand why we didn’t have a minority radio station in Fort Wayne,” said Dinwiddie. The radio pioneer is credited with owning and operating the first urban contemporary radio station in Northeast Indiana.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1935, Dinwiddie grew up in Fort Wayne. He helped lead Central Catholic High School to a state football championship in 1950 and later spent four years in the Air Force.
“When I got home from the service it was kind of rough. It was 1956 and Fort Wayne was still segregated to a point,” said Dinwiddie.
Dinwiddie spent years trying to find himself. He worked in a steel mill, sold insurance and even ran a clothing store but he found his niche through an ad in the classifieds.
“So they had this ad in the classifieds,” he said. “It said own your own radio station without an FCC license and so I said what the heck and sent five bucks. A guy in California sent me three manuals. In one of the articles in the manual, it was talking about cable radio. I went out to the cable company to convince the owner that I was an expert on cable radio. I had no money but that didn’t stop me.”
Dinwiddie wasn’t a cable radio expert but he was business savvy. He worked with a few investors to set up a cable radio station in the 1980’s. In 1990 he made the jump to FM.
“I went from cable radio to FM radio. A license became available that was opened up to minorities so I applied, with no money.”
But local advertisers helped the station make money. WJFX, FOXY 107.9 broadcasted local urban programming that catered to African Americans. For a decade, Dinwiddie made local headlines spinning records and CD’s then in 1999 he sold the station.
“God is good. He found a way for me to make it work. WJFX, 107.9.”
Dinwiddie, who’s 84, is long retired now living in Georgia. He was interviewed at WJBF, WANE 15’s sister station in Augusta which shared his interview with WANE. His radio days are long behind him now but his contributions did pave the way for national recognition.
“I was inducted into the National Black Broadcasters Hall of Fame in October in Atlanta. It was recognition for me being the first black cable radio station in the U.S. I’m proud of that.”
Dinwiddie is also on the History Makers website. The station he started is now Top 40 and owned and operated by Adams Radio Group.
“I truly hope that I have helped somebody along the way. I’ve had a great life.”