September 24, 1949 was a great day for two diligent young men with a vision. George Dodds and Hartley Grisham were filled with enthusiasm as their dream of a radio station was about to become a reality. Both had been involved in amateur radio for a number of years, and were eager to launch their new project.

“Months earlier land had been acquired and construction of a road under consideration. As Hartley and George stood pondering the question of the road, Deputy Sheriff Tom Patterson pointed out that they needed to give thought to the call letters for the station.

All broadcast stations east of the Mississippi River must have “W” for the first letter, the licensee choosing 2 or 3 other letters. Deputy Patterson suggested the first initial of their given names. Hartley, definitely inspired by God, said the most important partner of all was God and that he should be acknowledged as the Lord and Master of all things, so the next letter was “G” for God, followed by the initials of each owner (“G” for George and “H” for Hartley).

God’s hand could be seen through the years as the owners programmed Gospel and good listening music. At this time, WGGH was 500 watts non directional located in the southwest corner of Marion.

In 1952, Hartley sold his interest in the station to George, making him the sole owner. In 1954, it was learned that the station could qualify under FCC rules for a power increase to 5,000 watts, directional pattern, making it necessary for the station to move east of Marion.

In February 1955, WGGH became the second high power small market radio station in the United states and for several years was the only high power station in Illinois outside of Chicago.

In July, 1978, God again moved in a mighty way, and WGGH became total Christian. On September 2, 1978 WGGH became God’s radio station. In the five state area which WGGH reaches, untold thousands have been blessed, changed and saved through the many ministries programmed daily. TO GOD BE THE GLORY.

WGGH is and has been since 1955, the most powerful radio station in southern Illinois on both the AM and FM bands.”   —-Article from 1989 Sesquicentennial History

I remember growing up listening to WGGH in the 1950’s. Jim Duncan and his wife were with the station for 17 years through the 50’s and 60’s and hosted “Breakfast with the Duncan’s” every weekday morning as well as his own “Jim Duncan Show”. They often hosted their shows from a restaurant whose name evades me that sat across from Pulley’s BBQ next to the fairgrounds. They would shake a box with something in it and callers had to call in and venture a guess as to what it was for the opportunity to win a trivial prize.

Frequent on-air appearances were made by local musicians and citizens airing their opinions on local or national topics. Lucky Leroy was a frequent flyer before he started appearing regularly on WSIL-TV in Harrisburg.

WGGH is still located at 1801 E. Main St. and to the best of my knowledge is still broadcasting the Christian format.

(Article and some photos reposted from 1989 Sesquicentennial History, remaining photos from Marion Memory Kit Ads)


WGGH — 2 Comments

  1. I worked at WGGH in 1977 with Jim Duncan. I worked the control board for Jim.
    I also got to know Hartley Grisham when I was a student staff member at WSIU at SIU in Carbondale.

    Al “Bob Allen” Saponar

  2. I grew up in Marion in the 60s and being interested in electronics, visited the station and got to know George Dodds, the owner. Many years later in 2007, I became close friends of the Dodds Family and the new owner, Johnny Gomez. I was given the original RCA 5000 watt transmitter to take out due to the installation of a new Solid State transmitter that was installed. In the course of knowing George Dodds, he had helped me in restoring several antique radios from the 40s, as he was a excellant electronic technician and ham radio operator. After his passing, his wife requested help cleaning out his workshop and garage at his home on Carbon Street, in the process I discovered a check made out to Harley Grisham that transferred the ownership wholly to George Dodds. Mrs Dodds, had the check mounted and framed, as this was a significant milestone in the station’s history. The station has since changed ownership to Jim Fishback, but sadly it is run almost entirely automated, with limited staff. I also noticed the landmark call letters have been removed from the front of the building, which were a significant display on the building at night. I enjoyed getting to know the Dodds Family and subsequently Johnny Gomez. I will always remember George Dodds and his wife and family and their stories of contribution to radio in Southern Illinois. …Mike Jobe, Marion,IL

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