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Joyner, Tom(c. 1949–) - Radio host, Begins Radio Career, Chronology

american african tuskegee media

Tom Joyner has used his talents and opportunities to redefine the role of radio host beyond the traditional perception of disc jockey (DJ) throughout his media career. Joyner expanded his influence to the national level, used his media platform to inform as well as entertain his audiences, supported a variety of causes related to the African American community and others, and generated financial support as well as publicity for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Tom Joyner was born in Tuskegee, Alabama around 1949. His father, Hercules L. Joyner, was a former Tuskegee Airman, a member of the first group of African American pilots during World War II, and his mother was a secretary for the military. One of two children, his only sibling is his brother, Albert Joyner.

Joyner attended nursery school through college in Tuskegee with Lionel Richie, who went on to fame and superstar status as a singer, songwriter, and musician. Joyner was also a singing member of the Commodores, the local band formed at Tuskegee Institute (now University) which included Richie and others. He left the group before they went on to fame with Motown Records in the 1970s and later said (in jest) that it was his greatest mistake in life.

Begins Radio Career

Joyner remained in Tuskegee through his college years and married his first wife, Dora. Two sons, Thomas and Oscar, were born in the course of their relationship. Joyner began his career by accident a few years earlier, when he was involved in a protest of the only radio station in town, which would not play records by black artists. When the station agreed to do so, he volunteered his services, even though he had no experience.

Joyner also worked as a student announcer, which helped with his college expenses, and kept a weekend job at the local station. After he graduated from Tuskegee in 1970 with a BA. in sociology, his next position was as a radio newsman and disc jockey at WRMA-AM, an African American-owned station in Montgomery, Alabama. While working there, Joyner was first influenced to use media to positively impact the African American community, and he continued to do so as he developed his radio career.

Joyner left his home state to pursue additional opportunities as his career progressed, working at WLOK in Memphis, Tennessee; KWK in St. Louis, Missouri; and KDKA in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area. By the early 1980s he had settled in Chicago, where he worked at several radio stations, including WJPC (owned by John H. Johnson, publisher of Ebony magazine), WVON, WBMX, and WGCI. In 1983 Joyner was hired to do the morning program at KDKA in Dallas, and his show became the second most popular radio broadcast in the area.

In 1985 Joyner found himself renegotiating his contract with KDKA when he was approached by one of his former employers, WGCI in Chicago, about doing an afternoon radio program. After researching travel arrangements and weather patterns, he took the unprecedented step of signing contracts with both stations. While neither knew about Joyner’s decision to do both jobs at first, he convinced executives at KDKA and WGCI and his family that the unique arrangement would work.



Born in Tuskegee, Alabama


Graduates from Tuskegee University


Begins radio career in Montgomery, Alabama


Settles in Dallas, Texas after several radio jobs in other states


Works two daily radio jobs by flying between Dallas and Chicago


Begins nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show (TJMS)


Establishes Tom Joyner Foundation


Becomes first African American in Radio Hall of Fame


Marries fitness expert Donna Richardson


Receives major support for foundation from corporate America


Gains ownership of TJMS through his company, REACH Media, Inc.


Increases wealth when REACH Media is acquired by Radio One, Inc.

From 1985 to 1993 Joyner hosted the morning show in Dallas, flew to Chicago, did the afternoon show there, and returned to Dallas by late evening. His exploits drew national attention, and within three years, both shows became first in their markets and time slots (program schedules). As a result of his on-air and in-air schedule totaling ten shows and eight thousand miles each week, Joyner became known as the “Fly Jock” and literally one of the hardest working men in the media and entertainment industry.

The stamina demonstrated by Joyner in handling the stress and fatigue involved in maintaining his two-city commute was attributed to his easygoing personality, as well as good general health, consultations with doctors, and wise time management, which included rest and relaxation. He made it clear to observers that his work of talking and playing records was not stressful, as compared to other occupations.

Joyner’s personality was also considered his greatest asset in terms of the success of his radio programs, presented in the urban contemporary music format, which featured recordings by African American singers, groups, and bands in a variety of musical styles. He was also gifted with the ability to relate to all types of people from all walks of life and used his broadcasts to inform as well as entertain the audience.

In the late 1980s Joyner explored radio syndication for the first time, with a weekly show called “On the Move,” highlighting the most popular current recordings in a countdown format. This show reinforced his reputation of travel and awareness of the latest issues and trends in African American communities and prepared him for the next major phase of his media career.

In 1993, ABC Radio Networks approached Joyner with an opportunity to do a syndicated morning show, which would allow his program to be carried by a number of radio stations throughout the nation from a single base of operations. Joyner accepted and made history by becoming the first African American to host a nationally syndicated radio program. When he ended his airline commute, he had accumulated over seven million frequent-flyer miles with American Airlines, paying a $30,000 annual fee. The airline also retired two seats in his honor, in appreciation for the favorable publicity received from the “Fly Jock” arrangement, to be used in his radio studio.

The first broadcast of “The Tom Joyner Morning Show” (TJMS) took place in January 1994, and was heard in nearly thirty radio markets from north to south and coast to coast, including Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. While the music focus remained on the urban contemporary format, Joyner’s new show incorporated some different elements, including a live band in a Chicago radio studio, Joyner and his crew of announcers in Dallas, comedy segments, and a variety of celebrity guests.

Key members of Joyner’s on-air team were comedians J. Anthony Brown, Myra J., Ms. Dupree, and news anchor Sybil Wilkes. The show’s daily format included news, commentary on current events, politics, guest interviews, sports, and comedy, as well as music. Previously taped introductions by Joyner led to traffic and weather segments by local announcers, which provided useful information to listeners regardless of their location.

The show was an immediate success, and in its first two years of syndication grew to include over sixty radio stations. From a marketing standpoint, Joyner’s program usually drew its highest ratings and response from black-oriented radio stations, whose local ratings also were helped as they added TJMS to their programming. The successful track record of the program interested additional station owners and executives, and by the late 1990s TJMS had expanded to outlets in nearly 100 radio markets, with an audience of eight million listeners. The TJMS theme, “Oh, Oh, Oh, It’s the Tom Joyner Morning Show”, became a catchphrase in the African American community and further evidence of the show’s appeal.

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over 6 years ago

i am one of your biggest fans keep up the fight my brother, Tom Joyner for president