Radio station KUOA started at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and later belonged to John Brown University (JBU) in Siloam Springs (Benton County). These schools used the station to broadcast programs such as educational talks, religious programs, music, local information, and sports. In the twenty-first century, KUOA is an all-sports station nicknamed “Hog Sportsradio.” It is generally considered to be the oldest radio station in Arkansas that is still broadcasting.
According to Ray Poindexter in his book Arkansas Airwaves, the UA Department of Engineering began experiments with a wireless telegraph in 1897 and had a wireless station in 1916 licensed with the call letters 5YM. A license for the school’s first commercial AM radio station, KFMQ, was issued on December 4, 1923. This station first used KUOA as its call letters on February 15, 1926.
In 1931, as the Great Depression deepened, the UA Board of Trustees decided to lease out operation of the radio station to cut costs. In his Centennial History of the University of Arkansas, Robert A. Leflar opines that this transfer was “one of the University’s serious errors of foresight.” He continues, “It is easy to see, forty years later, the educational possibilities, both on and off campus, that were then too gladly gotten rid of.”
Lessees based in St. Louis, Missouri, and Fort Smith (Sebastian County) ran the station. Members of the Fulbright family then formed KUOA, Incorporated, to purchase the station, and on April 1, 1933, they took control, with Roberta Waugh Fulbright as president, John Clark as secretary-treasurer, and daughters Roberta Fulbright as station manager and Helen Fulbright as vice president.
John Elward Brown negotiated with the Fulbrights to buy KUOA and began broadcasts from the Fayetteville studio on June 1, 1935. He chose a recent JBU graduate, Storm Hammond Whaley, as station manager. It was not until November 26, 1936, that the KUOA studio, transmitter, and tower were all on the JBU campus. Brown had already had some experience with radio and felt strongly that radio had great potential to help him broadcast evangelical and educational programs to a wide audience.
KUOA added an FM outlet in 1947. In 1982, the KUOA-FM call sign was changed to KLRC, which still broadcasts from the campus of JBU and still offers training opportunities for JBU students.
JBU sold KUOA-AM to Dewey Johnson in 2005, but health problems forced Johnson to retire from broadcasting later that year, with ownership being transferred to Galen Gilbert. The station continued the country music and local information format Johnson had developed until it was sold again to Gary Bunyard in 2008. KUOA became an all-sports station with studios in Springdale (Washington County), though the main transmission tower is still located on the JBU campus; it then became a Spanish-language station.
For additional information:
Kennedy, Ralph C., Jr., and Thomas Rothrock. John Brown of Arkansas: 1879–1957. Siloam Springs, AR: John Brown University, 1999.
KLRC. http://www.klrc.com (accessed April 16, 2014).
Leflar, Robert Allen. The First 100 Years: Centennial History of the University of Arkansas. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1972.
Poindexter, Ray. Arkansas Airwaves. North Little Rock, AR: 1974.
Siloam Springs Museum
Last Updated: 05/24/2018