- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Morris H. Blum, 95, radio station owner

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — Morris H. Blum, a white radio station owner who put black personalities on the air more than five decades ago, died March 20 of cancer at his Annapolis home. He was 95.

During World War II, Mr. Blum was a lieutenant commander aboard a Navy transport ship and observed black men serving alongside whites.

“If a guy can risk his life for his country, why keep him out of a club or restaurant?” he told the Annapolis Capital in 1997.

Mr. Blum founded WANN-AM after the war, broadcasting big-band music, sports and news programs. But within a year, he started playing gospel and rhythm-and-blues.

WANN began to build popularity in the black community. Mr. Blum hired black disc jockeys and sponsored a weekend “Bandstand on the Beach” at Carr’s Beach, a segregated beach in Anne Arundel County, where Ella Fitzgerald and James Brown performed.

“He spent the better part of his life fighting against bigotry,” said Carl O. Snowden, a civil rights activist and aide to County Executive Janet S. Owens.

“He averted a catastrophe in Annapolis at the time of Dr. [Martin Luther] King’s death,” Mr. Snowden said. “He opened the station and allowed the African-American community to come on the radio and voice its concern. There were uplifting comments that allayed fear here.”

WANN’s format changed to country music in the 1990s to keep up with shifting demographics, and Mr. Blum got out of the radio business later in the decade.

Mr. Blum was born in York, Pa., and grew up in York and Baltimore.

He joined the merchant marines in 1931 as a radio operator aboard a tanker and later worked in the radio intelligence division of the Federal Communications Commission.

Survivors include two sons, Jeffrey Blum and Dr. Larry Blum, both of Annapolis. Mr. Blum’s wife, Margery, died in 1998.

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