Wesley South, 95, one of the pioneers of black talk radio in Chicago, died on Jan. 9, 2010. Born on March 23, 1914 in Muskogee, Okla., his parents, Dr. Elijah and Mayme South, moved to Chicago in 1924. Mr. South graduated from Englewood High School.
During the 1960s and ’70s most homes in the black community each night listened to “Hot Line,” hosted by Wesley South. He interviewed such luminaries as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President John F. Kennedy, President Jimmy Carter, Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Medgar Evers, Duke Ellington, Malcolm X and baseball great Jackie Robinson.
South was one of the first African Americans to graduate from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. He worked as a journalist for the Chicago Defender, the Chicago American, the Chicago Daily News and Johnson Publishing Company.
Leonard and Phil Chess of Chess Records purchased WVON in 1962 and later sold it to Globetrotter Communications, which also owned the Harlem Globetrotters and the Atlanta Braves at that time, and they subsequently sold WVON to Pervis Spann and Mr. South in 1975. South’s Hotline Show ran for 16 years.
In paying tribute on Monday, Jan. 11, Melody Spann Cooper, president/CEO, talked about the special relationship she had with South. She told of his mentoring and how much she learned about the business of radio broadcasting. Many longtime listeners of the station often referred to her as Mr. South’s “God-daughter.”
Former general manager of WVON, Lucky Cordell, said “in all of my dealings with Wesley, I can say he was always a gentleman and was very aware of what was happening all over the world. He was politically astute and had, on a number of occasions, traveled to other countries covering stories for WVON. I will miss him and he leaves gigantic footprints in the sand.”
Attorney Thomas Todd said that during his tenure with Operation Breadbasket (now Rainbow PUSH), it was Wesley along with “The Good Guys” who kept the black community informed. Todd said South was instrumental in political events from the election of Chicago’s first black mayor, Harold Washington, to helping his own daughter, Leslie South, become an appellate court judge (ret.)
Mr. South’s wife, Mildred, preceded him in death as did his only grandchild, Wesley Jackson. He is survived by his daughter, Leslie, and son-in-law, Arthur Jackson.