Founder of Urban One Radio in Silver Spring Honored by Sen. Van Hollen

Cathy Hughes

Urban One, a national radio station headquartered in Silver Spring focusing on the African American community, was honored for its 40 years on the air when U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen entered the achievement into the Congressional Record.

He called Founder and Chairperson Cathy Hughes “a tenacious entrepreneur, visionary radio personality, and powerful advocate for the African-American community,” adding that Hughes “has left an indelible mark on the State of Maryland and inspired millions of listeners across the country.”

Here is Van Hollen’s speech that is now in the Congressional Record.

Mr. President, I rise today to honor a tenacious entrepreneur, visionary radio personality, and powerful advocate for the African-American community, Cathy Hughes. This year, her pioneering radio company, Urban One, celebrated 40 years on the air. Cathy Hughes has left an indelible mark on the State of Maryland and inspired millions of listeners across the country.

“This titan of the airwaves began her extraordinary career in Omaha, NE, where she worked for a local radio station, KOWH. But it was when she moved to Washington, DC, in 1971 to pursue a job at the Howard University School of Communications that her career took off. While working at Howard, she got involved in the university’s radio program as a station manager. In her first year on the job, she increased the station’s revenue twelvefold.

“Cathy Hughes has always aimed high, and when she learned that the local D.C. radio station WOL was up for sale, she seized the opportunity. After being denied a loan 32 times, she finally received the bank financing she needed. So she purchased WOL, founded her own media company, Radio One, and quickly soared to new heights. Cathy Hughes revolutionized radio by rebuilding WOL from the ground up, literally, and brought on grassroots volunteers from the neighborhood to develop her station’s headquarters on H Street and 4th Northeast, just a short walk from the U.S. Capitol. Her innovative broadcasts captured the attention of the African-American community and attracted a wide audience of devoted listeners.

“Although she got her start in Washington, DC, Cathy Hughes has become a champion for Maryland. When her company first expanded out of Washington, its first stop was Baltimore. And her flagship venture, which was renamed Urban One in 2017, is now headquartered in Silver Spring. She has cultivated strong roots in Anne Arundel County and has been living in Pasadena for 20 years. Today, Urban One’s broadcasts reach households across Maryland and provide a platform for honest conversation on the issues that matter to our State. Cathy Hughes has given back time and time again to the communities that raised her up by hiring locally and employing countless Marylanders. That tradition of uplifting others has remained a hallmark of her career. Her company, which now houses two new multimedia ventures, CLEO TV and T.V. One, both stationed in Maryland, has created 1,500 jobs.

“In the 40 years since purchasing WOL, Cathy Hughes has never stopped overcoming barriers. In 1999, she became the first African-American woman to chair the board of a publicly held corporation. She headed the first African-American-run company to succeed in multiple radio markets simultaneously. Cathy Hughes made history again as the first woman to own a radio station ranked No. 1. Her trailblazing multimedia enterprise now reaches 82 percent of the African-American community and has cultivated a devoted weekly following of 15 million listeners.

“Speaking of Cathy Hughes’ inspiring career, Reverend Al Sharpton said, “She took the `mute’ button off of Black America.” Her legacy has been defined by a commitment to speaking up for those who have long been silent in the radio arena. While she has already lived a storied life and achieved enormous success, Cathy Hughes hasn’t slowed down. Her recent efforts to highlight local Black businesses struggling to weather the storm of this pandemic speaks to the depth of her lifelong passion for shining the spotlight on others. While her name has already been inscribed on the aptly renamed Cathy Hughes School for Communications at Howard University where she once worked, her story is still being written.”

Urban One was founded in 1980.

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Suzanne Pollak

About Suzanne Pollak

Suzanne is a freelance reporter with Montgomery Community Media. She has over 35 years professional experience writing for newspapers, magazines, non-profit newsletters and the web.

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