Art Gilliam

Art Gilliam

Art Gilliam was the first Africa-American to write for The Commercial Appeal. He was the first African-American to be an on-air reporter and anchor on Memphis television at WMC-TV. He was the first African-American to own a radio station in Memphis, and one of the first in the country – WLOK.
Art Gilliam was the first Africa-American to write for The Commercial Appeal. He was the first African-American to be an on-air reporter and anchor on Memphis television at WMC-TV. He was the first African-American to own a radio station in Memphis, and one of the first in the country – WLOK.

Art Gilliam received a B.A. in Economics from Yale University and then received an MBA from the University of Michigan. From 1968 to 1975, he served as a news anchor, editorialist, and a feature reporter for WMC-TV. He also served as an editorial columnist for The Commercial Appeal during that time. He did all this in addition to a busy career in insurance.

Art then went to Washington, D.C. to serve on the staff of newly elected Congressman Harold Ford, Sr. At this time, he decided to harness the communication power of the media by buying his own radio station and purchased WLOK Radio. To this day he has served as Chairman of the Board and President of this organization and seen his station win many awards. These awards include the title of #1 Gospel Station in the nation by Religion & Media Quarterly for several consecutive years.

Art was the first African-American to own an electronic media outlet in Memphis back then, and today his station is one of the few that is still locally owned. That local ownership makes a big difference for his listeners as well as for Art – his impact on our community is exceptional.

Art Gilliam organized the WLOK Stone Soul Picnic, which is still drawing thousands of happy attendees each year. In 1997, his WLOK was recognized by the Tennessee Historical Commission as a Tennessee Historical Landmark with a plaque that reads:

WLOK Radio Station
In 1977 WLOK became Memphis’ first African-American owned radio station. Established on this site, Gilliam Communications’ WLOK is a family-oriented format on which many of the nation’s top African-American leaders have appeared. Several of the nation’s leading disc jockeys starred here. WLOK’s community involvement includes college scholarships and the renowned WLOK Stone Soul Picnic. The station’s call letters, WLOK-AM are “A Family Tradition.”
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