Lunch and Discussion with Art Gilliam, Owner WLOK Radio

Thursday, August 12, 2021 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm

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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Lunch and Discussion with Bill Courtney, CEO of Classic American Hardwood

Thursday, September 16, 2021 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
Lunch and Discussion with Bill Courtney, CEO, Author and President of The Society of Entrepreneurs Board of Directors

Classic American Hardwoods was started in April of 2001 literally off of Bill Courtney’s couch. By June of 2001, it boomed in growth to 3 employees operating out of a front room in his home. Today, the company sits on a 43 acre site in North Memphis where the manufacturing and domestic sales offices operate and has additional sales offices in Shanghai, China; Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam; and Surabaya, Indonesia. CAH employs 120 people and will surpass $35,000,000 in sales this year. In 2007, the Memphis Business Journal awarded CAH with the Small Business of the Year award. From a pool of over 200 Memphis companies, CAH was the recipient of this award under the merits of diversity, achievement, rate of growth, and community involvement. This was a very gratifying achievement for the company as a whole, but also serves as a testament to the limits in which no company is bound. Owner, Bill Courtney, said it best from the podium the night of the ceremony, “This goes to prove that even fat, red headed guys can win on occasion.”

In an effort to have a positive impact on the local community, Classic American Hardwoods became involved with the Manassas High School football team that became a direct part of the CAH family. Owner Bill Courtney and Domestic Territory Manager, Jim Tipton, gave every afternoon for 6 years from 2003 – 2009 to the Manassas football team to not only prepare the athletes for Friday nights, but more importantly for life outside of football. In 2003 the team consisted of 19 players and the team’s record over the previous 9 years was a dismal 5-94. In the 2008 and 2009 seasons, the team’s record was 18-2, it boasted 75 players, and most importantly, in a community where an 18-year-old male is 3 times more likely to be incarcerated than to go to college, 35 of the two years’ 36 graduates from the football team went to college. The story was so compelling that a feature length, Hollywood film was produced about it that won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Documentary.

Bill recently wrote a book, Against the Grain, that hit shelves in May of 2014, is key note speaking at engagements from the Para Olympics in Colorado Springs, to Nike Win Forever seminars in Los Angeles and many venues in between, continues running the day to day operations of CAH.

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P.O. Box 770839
Memphis, Tennessee 38177