The Greater Seattle community is mourning the loss of Donald Thomas Dudley, a beloved father, friend and pioneering radio broadcaster, who passed away May 2, 2022 at Queen Anne Healthcare in Seattle, Washington.
Dudley was born February 28, 1935 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Chester and Ruth Peters Dudley. His older brother Sherman (Sonny) Dudley passed away at an early age when Don was 2 years old. After graduating from South Hills High School in 1953, Dudley went on to study music and business at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Dudley and his high school sweetheart and first wife, moved to Tacoma WA, where he worked for the Army at Fort Lewis. He loved the Pacific NW and convinced his parents to move from Pittsburgh to Seattle.
Dudley was a leader, minister, vocalist, and wonderful orator. He held several management positions throughout his career including the Executive Director of the Seattle Office of Social Human Services and the Executive Director of Volunteers of America Delaware Valley. Dudley was ordained at Mount Zion Baptist Church by his dear friend, Rev. Dr. Samuel Berry McKinney. He received several awards and served on numerous boards including an appointment by Governor Dan Evans to the Social and Health Advisory Committee.
In Seattle, Dudley was best known as the owner of the first Black owned radio station in Seattle, KYAC, “Soul of the Pacific Northwest”. KYAC broadcasted from 1965 to 1981 with a focus on playing music by African American artists. Initially, KYAC was owned by King Broadcasting, who also owned Seattle Magazine where Don was the Business and Advertising Manager. In 1969, the Black employees, led by Frank P. Barrow, went on strike against King to protest the low pay and poor treatment. Dudley was asked to step in and help settle the dispute. He successfully negotiated most of the employees’ demands and was offered the position of General Manger of KYAC. Dudley accepted the position and after a few years, negotiated an option to buy the station. In 1971, Dudley secured a group of investors and purchased KYAC, becoming one of only seven Black radio station owners out of 8,000 in the U.S. and the first independently run Black owned station on the West coast.
Dudley was invited and testified before Congress on the importance of Black ownership in the communication industry to provide African Americans the work experience needed for employment at major networks such as ABC, NBC, or CBS. Under Dudley’s ownership, KYAC grew from an AM daytime only radio station to a 24-hour radio station broadcasting on AM and FM.
KYAC became the heart of the Black community, supporting inclusion and radio programs for all. Dudley always said, that KYAC’s positive impact was due to incredible employees, such as Frank P. Barrow, Pat Wright, Veltry Johnson, and Robert L. Scott, to name just a few.
Chris H. Bennett, owner of 1420 AM KRIZ and 1620 AM KYIZ, says that there are many people in the broadcast industry today who owe Dudley a debt of gratitude because he paved the way for others to not only own a radio station but to also work in the broadcast industry.
“In life we all stand on someone’s shoulders,” said Bennett. “Don was certainly a pioneer in the local Broadcasting Industry as the first Black owner of a radio station in the Pacific Northwest. Surely, it was challenging to be the first Black owner, one could only imagine the degree and number of challenges that he faced. As the second local owner of a Black Broadcasting company in the Pacific NW, I may not have traveled in Don’s footsteps but his shoulders I certainly do stand on.”
Dudley was a life-time member of the NAACP and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. He is survived by his children, Terri Taylor Segars, Donald Taylor, Michele Dudley Evans, Chester Ogiale Dudley, Laura Ogiale Dudley, Donald Ogiale Dudley, and Stella Ogiale Dudley. He also leaves behind loving grandchildren, great grandchildren, cousins, and friends.
A Memorial Service will be held this Saturday, May 21 at 11:00 am at the Holgate Street Church of Christ – 2600 Holgate Street (across from the Tennis Center) in Seattle, Washington.