Happy 75th birthday to Urban One founder and chairperson, Cathy Hughes! We celebrate her major achievements over the years with a timeline of her biggest boss moves thus far. Hughes’ journey hasn’t been easy, but she continued to persevere and leave a globally recognized imprint in radio and media history.
Hughes is a media pioneer who founded the largest African American owned and operated broadcast company in the nation. Her unprecedented career has cultivated a multi-media conglomerate that generates original content across the spectrum of radio, television and digital media. Hughes’ celebrates her humble beginnings growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, and never let her circumstances stand in the way of her success but rather be the catalyst that fueled her ambition to empower African Americans with information and creative storytelling.
We love a legendary change maker. Hughes has won countless awards for her accomplishments. Streets and buildings have adopted her name to pay respect to her for breaking down the barriers for the Black community. Her strength and drive are commendable, and we are so honored to celebrate her today.
Check out a timeline of her biggest boss moves to celebrate her success throughout the years. Happy Birthday, boss!
The legendary Cathy Hughes was born in Omaha, Nebraska.
Hughes’ secured her first position was with KOWH, a black radio station in Omaha. She was later offered a position as a lecturer and as Assistant to the Dead of Communications at Howard University’s School of Communications.
3. 1973Source:Courtesy of MONARCH magazine
Hughes was named general sales manager to WHUR-FM in Washington, D.C.
Two years later, Hughes was hired as the general sales manager of the station. WHUR-FM had been struggling with less than $300,000 in annual sales revenue. During her tenure, she increased the station’s revenue from $250,000 to $3 million in her first year.
Hughes left WHUR for WYCB Radio, where she served as the vice president and general manager of the station. She created the popular format known as the “Quiet Storm,” which revolutionized urban radio and was aired on over 480 stations nationwide.
Hughes and her husband at the time, Dewey Hughes, decided they wanted to buy their own radio station in 1979, and after being rejected by 32 banks, they found a lender. With their loan, they purchased WOL, a small Washington, D.C. station and Radio One was born.
While Hughes wanted a talk format for the station, the bank was pressing for music. A compromise was reached permitting Hughes to have a morning talk show program that was followed by music programming throughout the day.
Hughes’ marriage ended shortly after purchasing the station and she began her new path as a single mother. She purchased her husband’s share in the station, but hard times soon followed. Her and her son, Alfred were forced to give up their apartment and move into the station to make ends meet. Over time, however, the station began turning a profit, largely due to the success of her talk show.
Her fortunes began to change when she revamped the R&B station to a 24-hour talk radio format with the theme, “Information is Power.” Hughes served as the station’s Morning Show Host for 11 years.
WOL is still the most-listened-to talk radio station in the nation’s capital.
Radio One bought radio station WKYS. Hughes was granted an honorary doctorate from Sojourner Douglass College in Baltimore. That accomplishment drove her back to school 2 years later.
Radio One went on to own 70 radio stations in nine major markets in the U.S. The company went public and she became the first African American woman to head a media company publicly traded on the U.S. NASDAQ Stock Exchange.
She was awarded the First Annual Black History Hall of Fame Award. Following that she was presented the National Action Network’s “Keepers of the Dream” award, which is an award that spotlights role models who contribute to and honor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy.
In January, Hughes launched TV One, a cable television channel targeted at the African American community.
Hughes’s son, Alfred Liggins, III, serves as CEO and president of Radio One, and Hughes as chairperson. Hughes is also a minority owner of BET industries.
She was the first woman awarded the Icon Lifetime Achievement Award by the Living Legend Foundation. She also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) in 2019, becoming a Hall of Fame inductee.
14. 2015Source:Radio One
A local business organization unofficially named the corner of 4th Street and H Street NE in Washington, D.C. “Cathy Hughes Corner.”
Hughes’ life story is featured on the documentary series Profiles of African-American Success. Hughes was also inducted into the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.
In May, Radio One’s name was changed to Urban One to reflect the market it serves.
She accepted a position on the Board of Trustees at Creighton University in Omaha.
Howard University renames the School of Communications to the Cathy Hughes School of Communications. The naming ceremony will took place Sunday, October 23 on Howard’s campus following the school’s homecoming.
Today, Hughes has the distinction of being the first African American woman to head a media company publicly traded on the U.S. Stock Exchange, and she continues to serve as Chairperson of Urban One.