Carter Broadcast Group 1950-2018
Andrew Skip Carter signed on the first African American owned radio station west of the Mississippi in Kansas City. What also makes it very special is the station has been owned by his family since it was founded in May of 1950. Andrew Skip Carter was born in 1919 and raised in Savannah Georgia. He built his first radio while still in high school and earned is first FCC license as a radio amateur.
After studying physics at Georgia State for three years, he served in the U.S. Army from 1940 to 1945. Carter went on to RCA Institute for Electronics and then to New York University to earn his first class engineering license from the FCC in 1947. He worked as a radio engineer for WTIP in Charleston, West Virginia. When he tried to get an on-air spot, he couldn’t get one, because he wasn’t “Black” enough.
Carter had a dream. At a time when segregation was the norm, he wanted a radio station that would play black music by Black artists. Something that was foreign and forbidden in that day. He attempted to get an east coast radio station but was turned down because he was a black man. So he went to Chicago and started to sell time on various radio stations, but this was tough. He had to concentrate on Black businesses.
For two years, Carter was a partner in Kyle, Carter and Eubanks, a Chicago firm consulting in Black radio. In August of 1948 Andrew Skip Carter wrote a letter to Broadcast magazine condemning the FCC’s racist attitude and difficulty he experienced in the radio industry. They ran the letter. It was read by former governor of Kansas, Alf Landon, who owned four radio stations himself and who was moved by Carter’s plight.
Landon met with Carter and hired him to run one of his stations, KCLO in Leavenworth, Kansas. Carter turned the station around. So impressed was Landon that he gave Carter airtime and helped him get his license from the FCC in August of 1949, only the second African American to receive one! Eventually, Landon gave Carter a transmitter to help him start up his own station in Kansas City. A dream of Carter’s since he was 14!
In May of 1950 Skip Carter started KPRS playing original songs by Black artists such as Ray Charles and James Brown. In 1951 the first studio for the radio station on 1590 AM, opened at Walnut and 12th street. In 1952 Carter, Ed and Pysche Pate became business partners and moved KPRS to a new location on East 23rd Street. Each one owned one third of KPRS-AM.
There were still a lot of obstacles. When they did not have the $250 to pay the telephone company to install the necessary lines to get the signal out, Carter balanced himself out of his window and hooked up his own lines to the telephone pole for the 500 watt day timer. In 1959 Andrew Skip Carter met someone who would support and one day carry-on his dream. Mildred Rhone and Skip Carter married in 1960.
It was her idea that they should file for an FM license. And in 1963 he received his FM license for a 100,000 watt facility. Mildred Carter remembers the first night they turned on the station. The wanted to drive all night to see how far the signal would go! They drove to Nebraska before they knew it! The station located at 103.3 KPRS-FM had a 24 hour format and simulcast with KPRS-AM.
In 1969 the Carters gained controlling interest in the station. In 1971 KPRS-AM changed its call letters to KPRT-AM. In 1972 Skip and Mildred Carter moved to Cocoa Beach, Florida due to his health. In 1975 KPRS became one of the first fully automated radio stations in the country. In 1987 to ensure the business would stay family run Andrew’s grandson Michael was named President of the company.
Following this appointment Michael took both stations back to “live” formats. Michael first went on the air at age 8 and he has never looked back since. Mildred Carter remained active in the company as Chairperson and CEO until her death.In January of 1988, Black radio pioneer Andrew “Skip” Carter died at his home in Florida.
His involvement in business and community organizations included; chairman of the Model Cities Program, director of the Kansas City Ad Club, Civic Council, trustee of Park University, Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City, vice chairman of the Tomahawk District of Boys Scouts of America, YMCA, member of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Missouri Broadcasters Association, co-founding member of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcaster, National Association of Broadcasters, member of the Tuskegee Institute, Cocoa Beach Chamber of Commerce, foundation committee of Brevard Community College, Cocoa Beach Boating Club and the Cape Canaveral Hospital Century Club.
In 1992 KPRS Broadcasting Corporation moved into new offices of the Andrew Skip Carter building where they are today. And in 1993 the company was renamed the Carter Broadcast Group Inc. to keep alive Andrew Skip Carter’s legacy. In 1996 Andrew Skip Carter was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago, Illinois. In an era of consolidation many offers have been made to purchase the stations, but none accepted.
The Carter Broadcast Group today is the oldest black owned and family operated radio broadcast company in the United States.