WBA Hall of Famer Duke Wright dies after lifetime in broadcasting

In the News People

Legendary broadcaster and WBA Hall of Famer Duke Wright died Wednesday. He was 83.

During his career, Duke, born Duey Edward Wright Jr., built Midwest Communications into one of the largest privately owned, family-operated radio operating companies in the United States, with more than 80 stations in nine states. Wright’s love of the broadcasting industry began at age 15, when he hosted a live music program on WSAU-TV in his hometown of Wausau. Later, a talented lifelong musician, he ultimately made the decision to pursue a career in radio broadcasting over music, a decision he would later say, “Seemed to end up turning out pretty well.”

A pioneer in radio, Wright recognized and implemented innovative changes that would later prove to have major impacts on the industry. The first was when he took a chance on a brand-new format created in the 1950’s, Rock and Roll. In, 1958, along with his parents, Wright founded WRIG inc. in Wausau, purchasing a local AM radio station. The station signed on as “Big” WRIG 1400, playing the new format, today’s CHR.

Later in 1964, believing that FM radio would one day become the dominant radio medium in the world, Wright acquired a construction permit to build his second radio station, 101.9, WRIG FM.

In 1971, Wright founded another company, this time his own, Midwest Communications Inc., building WROE-FM in Appleton. From there, under his leadership, Midwest Communications successfully completed more than 16 acquisitions, becoming the company that it is today. It was Wright’s vision to provide communities with the best programming and the best technical facilities, led by the best broadcasters. He believed in the importance of being “live and local” and radio’s unique characteristic to provide companionship to its listeners.

Three of Wright’s four children, Mary Kay, Michael, and Jeffrey Wright are now leading the company.

Wright said he was always proud of the many people who have worked at Midwest Communications, including not only his children but also all the creative talents, sales, and marketing professionals, and business support teams contributing to its success.

Wright served on many national and state broadcasting boards and committees. He was awarded numerous honors during his 68-year career including induction into the WBA Hall of Fame, the Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame, and the Wisconsin Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Wright was also recognized by Radio INK magazine multiple times as one of “Radio’s 40 Most Powerful People” along with many distinguished peers.

Wright served on the WBA Board of Directors from 1981-85, chaired its Hall of Fame Committee in 1997-98, and also served on the Board of Directors of the WBA Foundation.

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