The One Year History of The Tri-State Broadcasting Company and "Heaven's Radio Station" - WCPM

PART I - Getting WCPM On The Air

Actually, WMIK was the only station in Middlesboro in November of 1948. Another station, WCPM, did get authority from the FCC to begin construction during the last week of November 1948. More than just a few newspaper articles describe the history of WCPM. Though the station was on the air for a very short time, there is an abundance of information about WCPM on this website.

This first article from Three States newspaper early in 1949 details plan for the new station.

Second Radio Station For M'boro Approved By FCC

May Be In Operation 60 days After Site Is Approved

The Federal Communications Commission Friday granted the application of Tri-State Broadcasting Company of Middlesboro for 560 kilocycles, 500 watt daytime only standard radio broadcasting station.

Tri-State Broadcasting Co. is a corporation. Officers are Dennis Smith, president; Clinton Broadwater, vice president; and Tom Crutchfield, secretary and treasurer. The grant is subject to site approval.

The company has two sites under construction, both just outside the city limits of Middlesboro. The reason for locating the site outside the corporate limits is due to the fact the transmitter tower will be 310 feet high and ground radials 400 feet long.

The studio will be located in some building as near the center of town as can be secured.

It is hoped this station will be in operation 60 days after approval of the transmitter site.


The primary coverage, according to engineering data, will encompass the entire tri-state area, including such towns as Morristown, Jellico, LaFollette, and Clinton, Tenn.; Corbin, Harlan, Williamsburg, Hazard, Hyden, and Manchester, Ky. It is possible this station may be heard in Lexington, Somerset, Pikeville, Ky., Norton, Appalachia, Big Stone Gap and Jonesville, Va., Knoxville, Cleveland, Harriman, Johnson City., Kingsport, Tenn.

Whites Radio Log 1950

Below is Jack Colson's okay to build WCPM's tower (Copy from the National Archives)

(The following article is from the the Three States newspaper, April 28, 1949)

New Radio Station

To Go On The Air May 8

WCPM Now Making Test Broadcasts

The new radio station, WCPM, on a frequency of 560 kilocycles, will go on the air Sunday, May 8, M.I. Thompson, construction manager said Tuesday.

The new station, broadcasting for the time being during the daytime only, will have a coverage of 365,000 square miles and approximately 236,000 people. A majority of this area is not now covered primarily by any radio station, Thompson said.

Application will be filed in the next five days for nighttime operation. The station engineering figures show it will have a nighttime coverage of approximately 27 miles in radius.

The station was constructed a month from the date of final approval, the tower and the transmitter being the first building on the new highway.

The station will employ a full-time staff of ten; this does not include local performers who are expected to appear on it.

Offices of the station are located over the Harris-Lovett Motor Co. on Cumberland Ave.

It is expected at present to serve all the people by scheduling programs by the block or as Thompson said, to present one type of program for a period of time and then switch to a type program that appeals to a different class of people.

Test are being run every night after midnight this wek to determine the listening radius of the station.

(The following article also is from the the Three States newspaper, April 28, 1949. It is a photograph caption describing some of the employees of WCPM. The actual photograph is unavailable at this time. This news story appeared just below the previous article.)

OPERATING FORCE of Radio Station WCPM is shown here. Left to right are: M.I. Thompson, construction manager; R.C. Thompson, program supervisor; Pete Colgan, transmission engineer, and John Caylor, engineer. The station is now making its tests and expects to go on the air May 8. Shown in the photograph is one of the turntables for transcribed programs and the main distribution board.

(The following is from The Three States Newspaper, May 19, 1949)


Middlesboro’s new radio station, WCPM, had its official opening Sunday afternoon on the porch of Hotel Cumberland.

The program opened with invocation by Reverend Marvin Adams, followed by songs by the Crusaders quartet. Walt Gaines, manager of WCPM, acknowledged message from Alben W. Barkley, Vice President of the United States; Earle C. Clements, governor of Kentucky; J.S. Golden, representative of the 9th District and from many others.

Mr. Gaines oening remarks told of his pleasure in being a Middlesboro resident and stated, "There’s a place for another radio station in Middlesboro. We shall at all times be attentive to the needs of our listeners and community by broadcasting without discrimination."

Many leading citizens of the tri-state area were present and spoke briefly about WCPM’s coverage, challenge to service and the outstanding place it has already captured in the community.

Representatives of the woman’s clubs who congratulated the new station were introduced by Mrs. Viola Flowers.

Station directors are Tom Crutchfield, W. Clinton Broadwater, Raymond Lovett, Nat Fugate, and Dennis Smith.


(The following article is from the Three States newspaper, dated March 2, 1950.)

WMIK Seeks Purchase Of WCPM; Approval Expected in 2 Months

A proposal to purchase the Tri-State Broadcasting Co., operators of the local station WCPM, by the Cumberland Gap Broadcasting Co., operators of local station WMIK, is before the Federal Communications Commission for approval.

According to a report, approval is a matter of formality if no objections are entered and no one else offers to purchase WCPM. Approval is expected to be in the next two months. The Cumberland Gap Broadcasting Co. has an option to purchase WCPM if the FCC approves the purchase.

If the planned merger is approved by the FCC and goes through, the Cumberland Gap Broadcasting Company will have to consolidate the two stations and use the signal of only one of the stations. WCPM is now operating 500 watts, 560 kilocycles daytime operation only and WMIK is operating on 250 watts, 1490 kilocycles, full-time operation. WCPM has made application for night-time operation before the FCC, and according to reports, the hearing has been completed with a decision expected before summer.

It is expected that when approval is given that the Cumberland Gap Broadcasting Company will keep the call letters WMIK and operate on 500 watts and 560 kilocycles.

FCC regulations do not permit the same company to operate two stations where the signals overlap in the same area.

Of the two stations, WCPM is the baby station, having started operation in May 1949. Station directors are Tom Crutchfield, W.C. Broadwater, Raymond Lovett, Nat Fugate and Dennis Smith.

WMIK started operations in November, 1948. Stockholders of the station are Dr. A.G. Barton, Dr. J.H. Brooks, Dr. C.K. Brosheer, Dr. R.L. Kincaid and Dr. U.G. Brummett.

Purchase price of WCPM was given at $50,175.00, according to an article in this week’s issue of Broadcasting Magazine. According to the article, the deal will involve transferring of WCPM’s stock to WMIK stockholders. The application will be filed Feb. 23, and according to the article, action on the (proposal by the) FCC is slated for early March according to the trade publication.


(Reprinted for the Three States Newspaper, May 2, 1950)

WCPM to Leave Air May 10 in Merger With Station WMIK

The two Middlesboro radio stations will merge May 10, officials of the local broadcasting company reported today.

WCPM will transfer to WMIK, leaving only WMIK operating in Middlesboro. As yet the merged station will not have night time service as it has not yet been approved by the FCC.

The letter below is from Herb Leach. Herb suffered a stroke while on the air at WMIK. In this letter to John Cawood, he wants to return to Middlesboro after the stations merge.

PART IV - Conclusion

Archival records of the parent company of WCPM, the Tri-State Broadcasting Company, record corporate meetings in July and August 1949. The July meeting thanks Mr. Marvin Thompson for constructing the tower and other equipment. The August meeting concerned a six month audit of the corporation. From August 1949 until the spring of 1950, there are no official records available.

WCPM was on the air for exactly one year. At the April 29th meeting, all the officers and directors of the Tri-State Broadcasting Company tendered their resignations. Shares of stock in the company were transferred to several of the stockholders of the Cumberland Gap Broadcasting Company. In August of 1950, plans were made to consolidate the stock of both companies. By November 1, 1950, the Tri-State Broadcasting Company no longer existed. More importantly for WMIK, WCPM no longer existed. Middlesboro would be served by one radio station for the next 19 years.

UPDATE!!!Aftermath of WMIK Buyout

No fewer than half dozen residents who remembered listening to WCPM stated there was "bad blood" between the two stations as they combined during the Spring of 1950. A former employee of WMIK stated there may actualy have been some minor sabatage of transmitting equipment during the transition.

Recently, I found more evidence of hostilities. An appeal to the Kentucky Court of Appeals in 1954, some four years after WCPM went off the air in Middlesboro, provides more information. In Smith et al vs Barton et al, the court found in favor Dennis Smith and the former stockholders of Tri-State. The court revocated an earlier cash award. The complete file is below.

266 S.W.2d 317

SMITH et al.


BARTON et al.

Court of Appeals of Kentucky.

March 26, 1954.

Robert J. Watson, Middlesboro, for appellants.

Henry L. Bryant, Grant F. Knuckles and W. R. Lay, Pineville, for appellees.

MILLIKEN, Justice.

This appeal is from a judgment in the sum of $8,779.90 rendered against the thirteen appellants as damages for alleged fraudulent misrepresentations concerning the outstanding indebtedness of the Tri-State Broadcasting Company, whose stock was purchased from appellants by appellees.

Appellants were, prior to February 1, 1950, shareholders and directors in the Tri-State Broadcasting Company, which operated Radio Station WCPM in Middlesboro. Appellees are the shareholders and directors of the Cumberland Gap Broadcasting Company which owns and operates Radio Station WMIK in Middlesboro. Sometime prior to February 1, 1950, appellees began negotiating with appellants for the purchase of all of the capital stock of the Tri-State Broadcasting Company.

At the time the parties began negotiations the two broadcasting companies were competitors. For this reason appellants declined to give appellees a statement of the financial status of the company.

On February 1, 1950, the parties entered into a written contract whereby appellees agreed to purchase from appellants the stock of the Tri-State Broadcasting Company for $50,175, subject to approval of the transfer by the Federal Communication Commission. Five thousand dollars of the purchase price was deposited in escrow to secure the performance of the contract by the purchaser and was to be forfeited if the purchasers should fail to perform the contract for any reason other than by reason of the failure to receive approval of the sale by the Federal Communications Commission.

Appellees brought this suit in February, 1951, upon the theory that the oral statements of two of the appellants to the effect that the only thing they owed was current operating expenses, constituted fraudulent misrepresentations. Appellees claim that this statement was fraudulent because a balance sheet prepared by their auditor revealed items of current liability amounting to approximately $9,000. These included a debt of $1,026.35 to General Motors Acceptance Corporation and $4,310.04 to Universal C. I. T. Corporation and also $288.84 Federal Income Tax owed the U. S. Government as among other items of indebtedness. It is not contended that these debts were past due.

Appellants denied making any revelations at all concerning indebtedness of the company. This Court has held that intent to deceive is a necessary element of actionable fraud. An analysis of the testimony reveals that, if any such statements were made they were made reluctantly, after repeated insistence on the part of appellees. The appellees themselves are not in agreement as to what statement was made. Dr. Barton, an optometrist, said that the statement was that there were no liabilities except 'current operating expense,' while Dr. Brooks said that appellants said they owed only 'current accounts.' The difference between current liabilities and current accounts or current operating expenses is a very technical one.

It is elementary that to constitute actionable fraud it must appear that the alleged representations upon which the fraud is predicated were false; language technically inaccurate but substantially true does not constitute fraud. Leonard v. American Telephone & Telegraph Co. of Kentucky, 240 Ky. 839, 43 S.W.2d 187. To enable one to recover in an action for fraud, his pleading must not only state a cause for action, but the proof to sustain it must be clear and convincing. Bishop v. Kirby, 302 Ky. 499, 195 S.W.2d 84; Howard v. Farmer, 268 Ky. 303, 104 S.W.2d 957. No attempt was made to show that the items of indebtedness complained of by appellees did not constitute 'current accounts' or 'current operating expenses.'

For the reasons set forth herein, and in view of the circumstances under which the statements were allegedly made, we cannot say that there was sufficient showing of an intent to deceive on the part of appellants to sustain a judgment in an action for fraud.

Judgment reversed.

Final Comments

After fifty years, there is hardly any indication that radio station WCPM ever existed. Most of those who worked there are gone now. As of today I have found not a single reel of tape to prove it was ever on the air. Perhaps the demise of WCPM would insure success of at least one station and not the ultimate downfall of both.

Actually there is one continuing legacy of radio station WCPM, once called "Heaven's Radio Station." Today and every day, WMIK broadcasts at "560 On Your Dial" with 24 hours of gospel music. I believe Cousin Walt Gaines would be happy in knowing that.

Here's a surprise! Read it and see what you think. Is WCPM on the air in Middlesboro today with the call letters WMIK?

Written by: Chuck Owens