WJSV History

by James Snyder
(Written for
 Lee Shephard's WTOPTV.com website )
I've done quite a bit of work on the early years of what became WTOP, and I noted the Peter O'Reilly email about who first owned the station and the meaning of WJSV. I can shed some light on both.

The Twentieth District Regular Republican Club of Brooklyn, NY put station WTRC on the air in 1926. While it might seem a simple case of a Republican committee having a radio station, it is part of a much larger story. The Republican party in New York City was locked in a battle for control between the mainstream Republicans and members of the resurgent Ku Klux Klan, who at the time controlled political parties in a number of states and was attempting to take control of Brooklyn and New York City politics, since as went NYC so went New York State. The Republican party in Brooklyn was organized into several dozen Districts, each District responsible for putting forth candidates and bringing in public support in elections. The Klan was systematically taking control of each District's governing boards. The Twentieth District was one of the largest, most powerful and well funded.

WTRC was put on the air by the Klan faction that had taken control of the Twentieth District Republicans. WTRC stands for "Twentieth Republican Club". It was funded and run by James S. Vance and his publication, "The Fellowship Forum". The subheading of "The Fellowship Forum" is "The Voice of the Ku Klux Klan in America".

During 1927 there was a severe legal and public backlash against the Klan and its cronies in the Republican Party throughout the nation. There was quite a bit of heat being put on the Republicans in Brooklyn who were seen as Klan cronies, so one of the first actions the Klan faction was to transfer the station out of New York. There was a second reason I believe encouraged them to move, and that is the coming of the Federal Radio Commission. In 1927 there was a move afoot to regulate radio, which would mean the shut down of hundreds of radio stations that were interfering with each other since they all operated on two frequencies. I have found no references to potential regulation being a factor in the move, but many stations were trying this method to stay alive in the months before the Federal Radio Commission came into being.

The station was moved to Mount Vernon Hills, VA in 1927, and the call letters were changed to WTFF, for "The Fellowship Forum". Within a year, the call letters were changed again to WJSV, named for James S. Vance, the publisher of "The Fellowship Forum" and a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan in Virginia. Given that one of the Klan's primary arguments was Christian (in other words, Protestant) purity, I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Vance put forth the "Jesus Saves Virginia" slogan so the station didn't seem quite such a personal exercise in ego.



Mount Vernon Hills was not an ideal spot for a 50 watt radio station, so Mr. Vance started to invest in a 10,000 watt station on 1460 in 1928. He quickly realized how expensive such an undertaking would be
and that his daily program of religious programming wouldn't pay for the electricity, so he quickly worked a deal with the new Columbia Broadcasting System to become the primary station for CBS in Washington, DC. CBS would take over all programming and engineering costs for the
 operation of the station, with an option to renew or purchase the station after five years.

The FCC file implies that CBS quickly realized they were in bed with the Klan, and negotiations started in 1931 to purchase the station and license outright by CBS, which they did.

CBS also quickly realized the value of WJSV as their originating station in the nation's capital and moved the transmitter to Potomac Yards in Alexandria in 1930 to boost power and improve the coverage pattern, then to Wheaton in 1940 due to the construction of National Airport and the expansion of the RF&P Potomac Yards switching yard.

The station kept the call letters until 1943, when Frank Stanton paid $60,000 to the Tiffen, Ohio Police for the call letters "WTOP".

James Snyder