Hayden Huddleston - Broadcasting
Roanoke had existed for 42 years before 15-year old Hayden Hayden Huddleston, a high school dropout, gave the city it's first radio station. The year was 1924. Huddleston had left Vinton High School to work for the Richardson-Wayland Company. There he and his boss, Frank Maddox, pooled their money to build their very own radio transmitter. It was powered by a generator in the back of the store. For an hour a day they would broadcast, and their signal reached hundreds of miles because there were few radio stations. They had no license, but had call letters; 3BIY. When they acquired the license for the station the F.C.C. assigned WDBJ as the call letters. Their station is still operating today as WFIR.
Radio was a young industry when Huddleston introduced it to the valley - and to himself. In 1924 all the entertainment was live on WDBJ for two reasons. The station didn't have adequate equipment nor a record library and the management believed playing records over the air was improper. One particular Saturday Huddleston was doing a remote broadcast from a downtown furniture store. A large crowd of spectators had filled the sidewalk and street. The city police stopped the broadcast because it hindered traffic flow.
Huddleston remained in broadcasting the next 60 years. Even in the Navy during World War II he worked as a radioman on a minesweeper. And, except for those years in the Navy and some brief jobs in Charleston, WVA, and Kingsport, TN, Huddleston practiced his craft in Roanoke.
His radio shows demonstrated a breadth of interest: "Lazy Bill Huggin" - Singing; "Breakfast at the Ponce" - Talk; "Let's go to Church" - Religious; "What's the Answer" - Quiz Show; After television came to Roanoke he broadcast shows on three local stations; "The Hayden Huddleston Show" - on 27; "Claim to Fame" & "Klub Kwiz" - on 10; and "Klassroom Kwiz" - on 7. "Klub Kwiz" was perhaps the most successful show ever produced in Roanoke. It ran for 19 years and produced 45,000 pieces of mail during its first year, alone.
Huddleston earned a reputation as a courageous man. At age 45, in 1954, he started his own business, an advertising agency. Ten years later, after an operation removed part his tongue and lip, he trained himself to speak again and resumed his broadcast. At age 75, Hayen Huddleston passed away in his sleep.