On June 2, 1949, UT sent the FCC an application for installing an FM station, suggesting five sets of call letters: WVOL, WTCA, WHTS, WVSU, and WUOT. WUOT was the culmination of lengthy efforts to establish a radio station and lengthy participation by UT in the field of radio beginning with the World War I Radiographic Signaling Course offered at the request of the War Department. In 1922 the UT trustees had set aside $3,000 to establish a radio station, but the project failed because of insufficient funds. In 1927 the Peoples’ Telephone and Telegraph Company offered to sell WNOX to UT for $6,000, but President Morgan and a committee of alumni rejected the offer as not favorable enough to warrant raising the funds. In 1928 the student Radio Club instituted a low-wave broadcasting station—first in code—in Science Hall. On March 1, 1937, the singing of the UT “Alma Mater” by the university’s symphonic choir, followed by a 13-minute address by UT President Dr. James D. Hoskins, inaugurated a weekly broadcast series designed to convey to the region information about educational subjects, experimental data, and the latest developments in all fields of research, using a campus studio and the studios of Nashville’s WSM station. The Agricultural Extension Service broadcasted daily over local radio stations.

In 1937, through an expanded arrangement with WSM of Nashville, UT set aside quarters in Old College—the music room in the rear of the basement—as the studio room for the WSM hook-up through which educational programs were sent to Nashville for broadcast. By 1947 the equipment had moved to the third floor of South College. In fall 1947 UT’s student Radio Workshops began broadcasting such programs as Tennessee Editor’s Spread, Voices of Tomorrow, Tennessee Breadbasket, Your Child is Human, and Songs of the People. No academic credit was given for the work, but each student who participated received a certificate that detailed the work he or she had done.

After World War II, the Knoxville Journal built a small FM radio station, and WROL also had an FM station. In April 1949 UT contracted to purchase equipment from the Knoxville Publishing Company (the Journal), which had operated WKPB. In spring 1949 the UT Radio Workshop mounted a “carrier current” unit broadcasting on a frequency estimated to be in the neighborhood of 1450. The first FM WUOT programs were broadcast on October 27, 1949, and the first voice heard over the WUOT airwaves was that of Frank Lester, an undergraduate student who became one of the station’s first full-time employees upon his graduation.

The equipment was delivered to the new studio in the east wing basement of Ayres Hall, and the 10-foot tower and antenna were erected on top of Ayres. Kenneth D. Wright was the first station director, and the station broadcast five and one-half hours daily—two hours at noon and three and one-half in the evening, on 91.9 megacycles. It was a 3,000-watt station until 1955, when its power was boosted to 68,000 watts (and to 100,000 watts in 1968). Also in 1955, a gift of a transmitter and tower from WROL led to relocation of the tower from Ayres to the old fruit farm in west Knoxville. In 1959 the student AM radio station, WVOL, was merged with WUOT. In 1962, to make way for the western leg of the expressway to pass through Knoxville, UT purchased two tracts of land on Sharp’s Ridge and installed the transmitter and a 285-foot tower. The studio moved from Ayres Hall to the Communications Building in 1969. On May 8, 1971, WUOT joined the National Public Radio Network.

In 2009 WUOT won its first National Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association. WUOT was the national small market winner in the Best Writing category for a compilation of three different feature stories that aired in 2008: “In the Space of a Moment,” “Circadian Rhythms,” and “My Life. My Vote.” All three stories were written and produced by WUOT News Director Matt Shafer Powell.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title WUOT
  • Author
  • Keywords WUOT
  • Website Name Volopedia
  • Publisher University of Tennessee Libraries
  • URL
  • Access Date April 21, 2024
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update October 20, 2018