WEHC–AM was the second AM station on the air in Virginia! WRVA in Richmond was first. Merely ten years after broadcasting officially began in 1920, W. Byron Brown and Walter Grey founded WEHC-AM on October 24, 1929 on the Emory & Henry campus.
The College sold WEHC for $5,000 during The Great Depression and WEHC broadcast its last AM signal on Dec. 2, 1932. The station became WCHV in Charlottesville and the call letters WEHC remained unused until WEHC-FM went on the air in 1992. Between the two periods of FCC licensing, Emory & Henry College continued to explore methods of radio communication.
In the fall of 1950, Dr. Thomas Graybeal served as technical advisor for interested students and began WGLG. At times, the station operated with homemade transmitters. Signals may also have been transmitted by cable to several locations. The station reportedly replayed some programs from Bristol station WOPI.
In 1981, the station became known as WLRC, which stood for “Looney’s Radio Club.” Professor Tom Yost initiated the idea of connecting various buildings with phone wire. The cafeteria, The Hut, Hillman, and Carriger-Matthews were wired.
In 1982, the carrier current system became known as WASP.
In 1990, Hampton and Susie Allison of Alexandria, Virginia offered to pay for the cost of a transmitter and antenna for an FCC-licensed, over-the-air signal – if the College would pay for the engineering work. Mr. Allison had worked in radio engineering in Richmond and Washington, D.C. and had been involved in the early WEHC-AM. When Mass Communications Professor Teresa Keller called President Charles Sydnor to ask if the College could support the project, his words were “Proceed forthwith!”
The FCC approved WEHC-FM for broadcasting at 100 watts, and the station was launched on 90.7 MHz in the FM band from studios in Martin Brock on October 17, 1992. Emory & Henry had reclaimed the call letters WEHC.
Within a short time, it became clear that a stronger signal would be better, so in 1995, the College applied to the FCC for an increase in power to 500 watts. In the same time frame, the Virginia Tech Foundation and American Family Association also made requests with the FCC for use of 90.7 in the Bristol area. If WEHC received its 500 watts, WVTF and AFA could not receive their requests. In FCC language the three requests were MXd – or mutually exclusive. The College waited until 2007 when the FCC granted WEHC’s request based on a point system for resolving noncommercial MX situations.
WEHC began broadcasting with 500 watts on September 7, 2007. The College revised the mission of the station to become a College-operated campus and community station with a General Manager appointed by the president of the college.
WEHC entered a programming agreement with the Virginia Tech Foundation to run its Radio IQ programs for part of each day when college is in session and full time during summer and other breaks from classes. Again, the realization set in that a larger coverage area would be better and Emory & Henry applied for a significant power increase. Because Virginia Tech will benefit from the increased power that transmits its programs, the staff of WVTF became partners in WEHC’s planned signal expansion.
On October 26, 2009, WEHC started broadcasting from the new transmitter at 9,000 watts. At its opening ceremony, Susie Allison, the contributor of the first transmitter in 1992, flipped the switch at a ceremony that was held at the site of the new tower. Speakers included General Manager Dr. Teresa Keller, Station Manager Richard Graves, President Dr. Rosalind Reichard , Delegate Joe Johnson, and Virginia Congressman Rick Boucher. WEHC was then able to spread its excellent programming to a wider audience and play a bigger role in the community. Our minimum broadcast range is to Richlands in the North, Mountain City to the South, Rural Retreat in the East, and Blountville in the West.