CLASS OF 2005
Catherine Hughes is the founder and chairperson of Radio One, Inc., the largest African-American-owned and operated broadcast company in the nation.
Born in Omaha, Hughes grew up in the Logan-Fontenelle Housing Projects and attended the University of Nebraska-Omaha and Creighton University, her father’s alma mater, but never completed her degree.
In 1969 she began working at KOWH, a Black-owned radio station in Omaha, working and volunteering for everything. Hughes then invested $10,000 in the radio station from an inheritance. She recalled the station owners weren’t looking for investors, but she figured having a stake in the company would afford more opportunities to learn the radio business and give her more responsibility. The station paid back her entire investment when she left in 1973.
From the knowledge gained at KOWH AM/FM, Hughes moved to Washington, D.C. to begin building her empire. She was hired as general sales manager at WHUR-FM, Howard University Radio. Two years later she became the station’s general manager, boosting sales revenue from $300,000 to $3.5 million. Hughes also first created the urban radio format called “The Quiet Storm” on Howard University’s radio station.
In 1979, she and her husband purchased a small Washington radio station, WOL, creating Radio One. Her own talk show became a hit. Over time, she became the full owner and made the station profitable.
By purchasing stations in other cities, the company eventually became the nation’s largest Black-owned radio chain.
Radio Ink continues to list her as one of the 20 Most Influential Women in Radio and Ebony cites her as one of the 10 Most Powerful Women in Black America.