(left to right) Broadcast Pioneers members Pat Stanton and John Morgan Davis
Did you know that John Morgan Davis was this organization's very first "Person of the Year?" It was 1966. He was a founding member of Broadcast Pioneers and served as an officer and a board member for many years. But he was much more!
He was the person that threw the switch to make WIBG a 50,000 watt station. He was a radio announcer, a time salesman, business partner of Roger Clipp, a judge and Lt. Governor of Pennsylvania. He owned interest in several radio stations including WIBG. Davis was an elector for President Franklin Roosevelt in 1944 and was a delegate to the 1960 Democratic Convention that nominated President John Kennedy. But he was much more.
Broadcast Pioneers member John Morgan Davis was born on August 9, 1906 in Shenandoah, PA, located in the coal country of the eastern part of the state. He shared his hometown with two other famous people, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey.
Davis went to high school in Reading, Pennsylvania and then came to Philadelphia for college where he received his Bachelor of Science in economics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton’s School of Finance and Commerce in 1929. Three years later, in 1932, Davis earned his LL.B degree from Penn’s law school in 1932.
In November of 1929 while a senior at Penn, John Morgan Davis entered broadcasting as an unpaid announcer for WLIT, Philadelphia (the Lit Brothers Department Store owned radio station). He also did free announcing at WRAW in Reading and WIP and WHAT Radio here in Philly. In January 1931, while still in law school, he became a full-time paid announcer for WCAU Radio. Later that year, he became night supervisor for that same station.
Davis had claimed that he scooped the nation while at WCAU by announcing the first news about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case. Later, while still assignee to this story, he worked with Boake Carter who later went to CBS Radio. During his WCAU days, he also worked with another WCAU announcer, Paul Douglas, who later went on to fame in motion pictures. After WCAU, John became the radio director for the John Falkner Arndt advertising agency in Philly.
During 1932, he married Eva Pierson. They had three children, Patricia, Carole and John, Jr. and lived in Philadelphia.
When WLIT and WFI (the Strawbridge & Clothier Department Store radio station) merged in 1935 to become WFIL, he worked there both as an announcer and as a salesman. At that time, he met Roger Clipp who had just moved to Philadelphia to manage the new station. Davis and Clipp would later become business partners.
Later the same year, John Morgan Davis had a golden opportunity to become associated with a small 250-watt station located in Glenside, Pennsylvania, WIBG Radio. At that time, the station covered only a small portion of the city. Davis became the station’s Vice-President, General Counsel and a minority stockholder. Just seven years later, in 1942, the station went to 10,000 watts. Davis was Vice-President of Seaboard Broadcasting, the company that owned WIBG when the station was sold to Storer Broadcasting in 1957.
At one time, Davis was also Secretary and minority stockholder of WAEB in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
He was the chief counsel for a committee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that investigated housing in Philadelphia during the thirties. He also was secretary of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board from July 1937 to February 1939. In 1941, John Morgan Davis ran on the Democratic ticket in 1941 for Common Pleas Court. He lost.
He was a Presidential Elector for President Franklin Roosevelt in 1944. Davis had sat on the Philadelphia Council of Defense’s trial board and was commander of the control center there during the Second World War. In 1945, he ran for Superior Court Judge of Pennsylvania and again, he lost. These were the only major defeats in his career.
In August 1944, Davis was named general counsel and labor relations director of NAB (The National Association of Broadcasting) under then President J. Harold Ryan, later would become Vice-President of Storer Broadcasting. He stayed in that position until August 1946. He set up the NAB’s first separate labor relations department.
During this time, Davis worked with Rosel H. Hyde, then FCC assistant general counsel in preparing FCC forms that satisfied both the FCC and broadcasters. He helped solve FM and TV allocations problems. He helped set up a hearing consultation system for the FCC and Washington Communications lawyers.
John Morgan Davis was Vice-President of the Corporation filing for Channel 23, WIBG-TV in Philadelphia. The company was owned by Seaboard Broadcasting (owners of WIBG) and a small portion of the stock being owned by the Philadelphia Daily News.
(left to right) Member Bob Dome and his wife, Mrs. and Judge John Morgan Davis and Pat Stanton
In 1949, John helped incorporate the Philadelphia Radio & TV Broadcasters Association and remained as their general counsel until January 1952. The organization was later dissolved with Broadcast Pioneers filling much of the vacuum.
In November of 1951, he ran and won the office of judge of the Common Pleas Court number 4 of Philadelphia. He had won his first judgeship by defeating incumbent Tom Bluett. He served in that position until 1958 when he resigned to run for Lt. Governor of Pennsylvania. He won and served in that office for four years under Governor David Lawrence. In fact, in 1959, Davis was there and threw the switch that increased the power of WIBG to 50,000 watts (daytime with 10,000 at night).
Earlier, we mentioned how Davis went into business with Broadcast Pioneers member Roger Clipp. Both Davis and Clipp were founding members of this organization. Well, in 1945, the two purchased WALL, Middletown, NY.
In August of 1964, Community Broadcasting Corporation agreed to sell WALL to Straus Broadcasting for just over a half-million dollars. WALL operated at that time with 1 kw day and 250 watts at night at 1340 kc. Davis owned 48.3% of the company with his wife, Eva owning 1.7%. VP of the Triangle Stations, Roger Clipp and his wife, Marjorie, owned the other fifty percent. Roger owned 26.1% with Marjorie owning the remaining 23.9%.
In December of 1958, after winning election as Lt. Governor, Davis and Clipp purchased WSPB in Sarasota, Florida. The two sold the station in the mid-sixties for a handsome profit. Davis during in the mid-sixties was a director of WRBB, Tarpon Springs, Florida.
Davis was the 22 nd Lt. Governor (he was a Democrat) for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He served from 1959 to 1963. During 1960, he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention that nominated John F. Kennedy for their party’s nomination.
On January 7, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson appointed three judges by recess appointments. One of them was Davis for U.S. District Judge for Philadelphia. President Kennedy previously nominated Davis in September of 1963. A Senate judiciary subcommittee approved the nomination but the Senate adjourned before approving the nomination. In March of 1964, the Senate confirmed Davis’ appointment. He served in that position for twenty years, until his death on March 8, 1984.
In 1959, Davis said:
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
Written and researched by Broadcast Pioneers member Gerry Wilkinson
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