Art Gilliam, a young, progressive-minded, Yale-educated black businessman bought WLOK in 1977, making it the first black-owned (and the first locally owned) radio station in the city of Memphis.
Under Art Gilliam’s leadership, the WLOK Stone Soul Picnic was organized and professionally managed, drawing tens of thousands of people to the Martin Luther King Park each year. By the mid-eighties, the station had changed its R&B format to a full-gospel format, and by the late nineties, WLOK had won honors and acclaim from every major gospel association in the country, earning for several consecutive years the title of #1 Gospel Station in the nation by Religion & Media Quarterly.
In February 1997, twenty years after WLOK became the first African-American owned electronic media outlet in Memphis, the station was recognized by the Tennessee Historical Commission as a Tennessee Historical Landmark.
Most recently, WLOK has worked with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office to reduce drug use among young people. The station presents numerous on-air programs that help youngsters.
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