Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) stood on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday to honor Urban One founder and chairperson Cathy Hughes.
“Madam Speaker, I rise today to ask the House of Representatives to join me in recognizing Cathy Hughes on her 40 years as the leader of Urban One, now America’s largest Black broadcast network,” said Norton. She has “dedicated her career to amplifying the voices of Black people and their perspectives through the airwaves.”
Hughes, 73, started her illustrious journey in the media industry in the mid-1960’s at the Omaha Star newspaper in Omaha, Neb. It was there in her hometown in 1969 that Hughes broke into radio at Nebraska’s first radio station, KOWH, but left shortly after she was offered a job as an administration assistant for the School of Communications at Howard University. Hughes quickly worked her way to become the General Sales Manager of the university’s radio station, WHUR-FM, in 1973 and increased the station’s revenue by an astounding 1,200% in her first year.
In 1975, Hughes became the first woman vice president and general manager of a station in the nation’s capital. She created the format known as the “Quiet Storm,” which revolutionized urban radio and was aired on over 480 stations nationwide. She took the step up from being a general manager to the owner of heritage station WOL-AM in Washington D.C. A resilient process for Hughes after being turned down by over thirty lenders before securing financing in 1979. She led the station with the nation’s first 24-Hour talk format delivered from a “Black Perspective,” effectively starting Radio One with 1450 WOL as the flagship in 1980. Two years later, Hughes took over as the owner of ten radio stations including WOL, which is still the top-rated talk radio station in the nation’s capital. She served as the network’s morning show host for 11 years until 1991.
As a corporate trailblazer, Hughes was the first African-American woman to chair a publicly held corporation in 1999. Radio One offered more than seven million shares of common stock to the public as the leader in African-American entertainment and media coverage. Hughes took on more than 60 stations across the country composed of hip hop, R&B, gospel and talk radio formats. The radio network evolved with the launch of cable network TV One in 2004, and established a digital footprint with Interactive One, now iOne Digital, in 2007.
Radio One, now Urban One, Inc., the parent corporation of several subsidiaries including TV One, Reach Media, which presents syndicated radio programs like the Rickey Smiley Morning Show, The D.L. Hughley Show, and the Tom Joyner Morning Show; iOne Digital and One Solution, a marketing firm that allows advertisers to take advantage of all of the assets under the Urban One brand.
The congressional honor for Hughes is one of the many accolades for the broadcast pioneer. She was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2019, the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame in 2016, and the Radio Hall of Fame in 2010. Two of the places where Hughes started her career have since acknowledged her accomplishments. Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. named her to the Board of Trustees earlier this year, and Howard University instituted the Cathy Hughes School of Communication in 2016.
“I relish this opportunity to recognize and honor the work of Cathy Hughes,” Norton said before ending her time on the floor. “Her resilience, optimism and determination are true guiding lights through these difficult times. She has mentored countless women and her entrepreneurial energy has touched many, both in D.C. and across the nation.”
Read the entire speech by Norton from Wednesday.