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WIVK mourns death of station's founder

5:59 PM, Feb 7, 2011   |    comments
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  • Jim Dick in the 1950's. Photo courtesy of Images of America: Knoxville's WIVK by Ed Hooper.

On Monday the halls of WIVK were more solemn than usual. Workers in the normally upbeat studios carried heavy hearts following the death of station founder and Knoxville radio pioneer James A. Dick.

Dick died following a lengthy illness.  He started WIVK radio in 1953 and also founded the Dick Broadcasting Company.  From the beginning, Dick's leadership allowed the station with the frog logo to grow by leaps and bounds.

"Mr. Dick brought us WIVK, which is one of the most successful country music radio stations in America," said Mike Hammond, director of operations for Citadel Broadcasting in Knoxville and program director for WIVK.  "He has left us a wonderful legacy, but one that goes beyond quality broadcasting.  He taught us how to do things the right way for the community."

Hammond was hired by Dick as a college student in 1973.  Dick's legacy includes hiring and nurturing the careers of several local radio personalities.

"He was a mentor, a friend, and an inspiration," said talk radio host Hallerin Hilton Hill.  "He gave me a shot.  He had this wonderful ability to see what was great in you and get it out.  There are people in the world who are bricks and there are people who are mortar.  Mr. Dick was the glue that holds everything together.  He had this ability to be mortar."

Inside the bricks and mortar of the Tennessee Theatre hangs a portrait of James A. Dick.  Many credit him with the survival and revitalization of the East Tennessee landmark.

"If it were not for him, there wouldn't be a Tennessee Theatre," said Hammond.  "They were going to tear down that theater and he saved it. I think for people who may not have known about James Dick, they have been touched by him either through the radio or through his work in the community."

"Our community is different and better because he lived here," said Hill.  "Knoxville is better. Those kinds of people are rare. It is incredible and I miss him."

Funeral arrangements for Dick have not been announced.

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