April 17, 2021

Jesse B. Blayton – Founder of the 1st African American Owned Radio Station & Co-founder of Two Black-Owned Banks

Once upon a time in Black Entrepreneur History lived an African American man named Jesse B. Blayton who was not only an civil rights activist but founded the first African American owned and operated radio station in the United States of America, became co-founder of Black-owned banks and founder of Blayton Accounting laboratories.


Jesse B. Blayton was born on December 6, 1897 in a Fallis, Oklahoma. His parents were Lustus (or Lester) B. Blayton and Mattie E. Carter [Blayton]. He was born a twin to his brother Benjamin, and he had an older brother named Joseph and younger sisters and brothers named named Ida R., Goldie, James, Ruby, Luster and Mary. They all lived on a farm they owned.[1]

Being that Jesse was 12 years old, he along with his other capable siblings, worked on the farm doing farm labor along with their father in order to thrive.[2] By the time he was 21 years of age, his father had already passed away and it was then that Jesse B. Blayton enlisted in the ARMY on January 5, 1918. He was stationed in Meridian, Oklahoma, and was ranked as Corporal in Company “C” 365th Infantry NA.[3] He was released from service on March 12, 1919, having served one year.[4] After his service at the age of 22, he’d started working as a clerk in a local general store.[5]

He had dreams of more after having been influenced by his African American commanding officer who was also an accountant. This is the road he wanted to travel, so that is what he did. He enrolled in school while married with a pregnant wife.

Jesse B. Blayton’s Education

The University of Chicago was his choice for higher education, becoming a member of the University of Chicago Alumni Association. He then graduated from Walton School of Commerce in 1932. Blayton earned an Bachelor’s of Law (LLB) degree from the American Extension School of Law.

Jesse B. Blayton’s Professional Career in Education & Entrepreneurship in Banking and Radio

After completing school, he went to work as an accountant with a Black-owned insurance company when he and his family moved to Atlanta, Georgia.

Jesse B. Blayton became a charter founder and vice president of Black-owned Citizens Trust Bank in Georgia as well as a founder of Mutual Federal Savings & Loan Association. He truly believed that income equality was to be the answer to Black success in America, but it was a long way off. However, Black people had to start somewhere due to the negative start all Black people had in the past.[5a]

He became the first president of the Atlanta Negro Chamber of Commerce also known as the Atlanta Business League, and he was on the governing board of the Atlanta Housing Authority.

Jesse B. Blayton became the first black certified public accountant in the United States of America in the year 1928 and founded Blayton Accounting Laboratories. He was also a professor, specifically an Andrew Carnegie Foundation professor of economics and business administration at Atlanta University. He also taught as a professor at Morehouse College prior to the Atlanta University assignment where he taught until 1970. Blayton also served Morris Brown College as professor of accounting(1971) after leaving Atlanta University.[6]

He was a member of the National Institute of Certified Public Accountants and National Association of Black Accountants.

It wasn’t until 1949 that Jesse B. Blayton became owner of WERD Radio station in Atlanta, making history as the first Black-owned radio station in America.

WERD was located on Auburn Avenue, which was a highly popular street for Black people and Black business. Blayton acquired the radio station by purchasing it from the owners who were two white men catering to Black listeners on the station that they called WDIA. Under them, the radio station was failing.

It was the perfect business opportunity for Blayton, so with no experience in radio, he bought the station from under them and changed it’s name to WERD. The radio station went from losing money to gaining a huge audience in multiple counties, taking in more money than it ever had. Atop that, Blayton brought on very popular African American radio personalities and shows.[7] Blayton was able to control the Black narrative on radio with such shows as The Law and You and Let’s Talk About The Law which taught consumers their rights.

WERD became predominantly gospel music and jazz. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. frequented the radio station as a guest on many shows.

One of the more popular African American on air personalities brought on by Blayton at WERD was “Blind Joe” Walker, given the name because he was in fact blind. He was featured during the afternoon on The Golden Chariot.

The radio station was changed to WXAP in the 1970s.

Blayton was also part owner of Brown Boy Bottling Company in Atlanta Georgia which was a soft drinks distributor and part owner of Top Hat, a night club that was located on Auburn Avenue. It was a segregated night club due to the laws of the land, where whites would enjoy on one night and blacks another.

Jesse B. Blayton’s Civil Rights Activism

Blayton was also a civil rights activist and member of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People)

Marriage & Family Life

Jesse B. Blayton married Willa Mae Daniels on December 28, 1920 in Logan, Oklahoma when he was 23 years old. They had two children – Doris A. and Jesse B., Jr.

His wife was his partner in all his endeavors, known to work side by side with him in all he did throughout his career. She was a Langston University graduate with a degree in education as well as a Morehouse College graduate with a AB degree, while also having studied at Atlanta and New York Universities.[8]

She was also founder of the Blayton Business College in 1946.

Death

Jesse B. Blayton passed away on September 13, 1977 at the age of 79 in Fulton, Georgia. He was buried in Southview Cemetery.[9]


Sources

[1]Year: 1900; Census Place: Iowa, Logan, Oklahoma; Page: 6; Enumeration District: 0139; FHL microfilm: 1241339

[2]Year: 1910; Census Place: Iowa, Logan, Oklahoma; Roll: T624_1260; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 0133; FHL microfilm: 1375273

[3]The National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland; Record Group Title: Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985; Record Group Number: 92; Roll or Box Number: 367

[4]Ancestry.com. U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

[5]Year: 1920; Census Place: Bear Creek, Logan, Oklahoma; Roll: T625_1470; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 45

[5a] The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia 24 Jan 1974, Thur Page 30

[6]The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia 16 Sep 1977, Fri • Page 18

[7]Lest We Forget http://lestweforget.hamptonu.edu/page.cfm?uuid=9FEC4AA0-0D42-9F42-8E67395598EC7C77

[8]The Atlanta Voice (Atlanta, Georgia) 15 Nov 1970, Sun Page 3

[9]Georgia Health Department, Office of Vital Records; Georgia, USA; Indexes of Vital Records for Georgia: Deaths, 1919-1998; Certificate Number: 028458