Mütter Evans blazes broadcast trail

March 01
06:00 2018

By Busta Brown

It was 1979 when a 26 year old was in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, making history as the second African-American woman to purchase a radio station.  Her name is Mütter D. Evans.

“Life is series of things that unfold, and if you script everything, you’ll miss out on opportunities.” That was Evans’ reply when I asked if she was afraid or reluctant to take on the responsibilities of owning a radio station like WAAA, which first began broadcasting in 1950. The station was rare at that time in the Deep South, because it had a white owner that catered to a mainly black audience.

By 1979, WAAA-AM was well established in the black community. “I started working at the station in 1974 as a part-time on air personality.” While on the air, she was a student at Wake Forest University with an opportunity to work full time at WGHP-TV as a news reporter after she graduated. Evans wasn’t comfortable with the invasion of privacy that came with being a TV personality. “That is what impacted me the most to make the decision to go into radio. That deviated me from what I wanted to do most.”

The future radio owner said she wanted everything that came with doing TV, “But not at the expense of my privacy.” She decided to work at WAAA full time, and at age 25 became the general manager and executive vice president. “The owner of the station, Bob Brown, said to me, if and when I decide to sell the station, I will give you first rights of refusal.”

At first she hesitated. “After taking the weekend to think about it, I thought, what I have to lose. If I fail, I could pick myself back up.”  Evans was young, yet bold and unafraid to step into what has always been a man’s world. “It was fast moving and I was a sponge, taking it all in.”

Her boss told her that opportunity doesn’t always come when you’re ready, so when the time came to purchase WAAA, “I took it.” I asked if she was intimidated by an all-male board. “No,” she said. I asked why not. “It’s just the stuff I was made of,” she said. 

Six months later, Mütter D. Evans made history. “I wasn’t afraid not to make it. I am self assured about who I am. I was told I was too young, I was told I had no husband to co-sign and I was told a black woman can’t succeed at this.”

Evans took the challenge head on. “I dare you tell me what I can’t do. The only two people that could tell me I couldn’t do something were my mom and dad; and they didn’t.” 

Under her leadership, WAAA reached new heights and created radio legends. She put a promotion team together and the station became the heart of the black community. There were billboards of the on air personalities all around the Triad. They became local superstars. “I’ve been blessed to work with a lot of great people. I wasn’t eager to shine; I surrounded myself with folks that knew the business and had something to contribute. That was the key to our success.”

WAAA has always been established in the black community, but under Evans’ leadership, it became the voice. During the 1980s, Winston-Salem had not yet recognized the King Holiday, so she used the power of the microphone to rally the communities together, and started a yearly event to bring awareness that The Queen didn’t celebrate The King Holiday.

“I started it five years before the holiday. We aired Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches every Sunday morning at 9:30.” As of this past January, Evans event celebrated 38 years. 

Go to our YouTube channel @ Winstonsalem Chronicle to see the rest of this powerful and very intimate interview with radio legend, community activist and soon to be author Mütter Evans.

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