Legendary broadcaster honored on 100th birthday - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Legendary broadcaster honored on 100th birthday

WATERLOO (KWWL)--  ''It is my distinct privilege at this time to speak the first words that will officially launch a new radio voice onto the airwaves.''

And with those words spoken by RJ McElroy, radio station KWWL first went on the air on November 2, 1947.

By that time, Mac was well known throughout Eastern Iowa. After leaving his Wisconsin home as a teen to support his family, he landed in Cedar Rapids as a department manager at the Woolworth store.

There he met Art Shepherd, who often used McElroy on his man on the street radio show.

From there, Mac got his own midday show, which was broadcast from the Black's Department Store corner in Waterloo for 25 years.

Despite the lack of formal education, McElroy was street smart, and the combination of his drive and the financial backing of 32 community minded supporters led to the founding of the Black Hawk Broadcasting Company and ultimately, after one of the most celebrated court fights in history, the launch of KWWL channel 7 in 1953.

Mac died unexpectedly in 1965, but the legacy he left lives on in the cedar valley, through the McElroy Trust Foundation, facilities that bear his name such as the McElroy Auditorium, and of course, KWWL TV. 

by Jeff Stein, Archives of Iowa Broadcasting

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