KAAY Blog Site Biographical Sketch
Originally written April 19, 1994
Revised December 31, 2010
How can a tall, skinny kid from a small town in Arkansas make a significant impact in the world of broadcasting and wind up owning his hometown radio stations during his career? Eddie Graham is one such example.
Loyd Edward Graham was born and raised in the DeGray community, near Arkadelphia, Arkansas. His father was a building contractor, and many homes in the Arkadelphia and Clark County still stand as a testament to his work. Loyd Edward Graham, or “Eddie,” was the youngest of eight children. His mother died when he was five years of age, and his father never remarried.
Graham graduated from Arkadelphia High School in 1955, and attended Henderson State University. Graham intended to join the Army along with one of his friends, but the opportunity to get a job in the broadcasting industry beckoned. Actually, his friend quit a job, and his boss hired Graham. That was in 1956, and the job was studio engineer for KTHS radio in Little Rock.
Suddenly, Graham was thrust into the limelight in 1957, during the Little Rock Central High School integration crisis. Then Governor Orval E. Faubus was speaking to the world about his decision to call in the Arkansas National Guard, in order to prevent the integration of Central High School. The largest intercontinental network telephone hook-up in Arkansas broadcast history (at the time) was accomplished from KTHS radio. The Governor answered questions from around the globe about the historic event. Studio engineer Eddie Graham was the man at the controls. Over the next several weeks Graham met some of the greatest names ever in broadcast news, including Edward R. Murrow, Douglas Edwards and Eric Sevareid, and of course, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus. “I was just a big, overgrown kid from Clark County (Arkansas) and didn’t realize that this was such an historic event in the live of the country,” Graham said.
In 1960 Graham became an engineer with KTHS-AM 1090 in Little Rock, Arkansas. That same year he also received is FCC First Class Radiotelephone certificate, become a full-fledged licensed broadcast engineer. While he only attended college briefly, he did attend Draughon’s School of Business in Little Rock, and while there, completed courses in engineering and electronics. Graham had a keen mind, with a knack for electrical and electronic equipment. This background and training served him well, as he worked diligently for what would become the number one broadcast radio station in the state of Arkansas.
When the LIN Broadcasting Corporation purchased KTHS and re-named the station KAAY in September 1962, But Graham’s career path changed after a few years as studio and production engineer. Pat Walsh, who was the sales manager and later general manager of KAAY for a time, once said that “Eddie can do things with a razor blade and splicing tape that people with computer programs can only dream of.” That was accurate. At one point, Eddie told me that he could “take the T off of shit.” He was truly gifted in that way. Graham could also repair virtually anything, especially anything electric or electronic. His keen analytical mind, along with his knowledge, skills, and abilities in electronics served him well. But Pat Walsh saw greater potential in Eddie Graham. Walsh called him into his office one day and told him that he was going to move him to sales. According to Walsh, Graham became so upset that he kicked a wastebasket across the room, which Graham denies.
Eventually, Graham saw the potential for greater earnings through radio advertising sales. Walsh said that he knew that Graham would do well, because he “was a tremendous worker, and people trusted him.” Those traits paid off for Walsh, Graham and KAAY. He held the sales record at the station for the largest one-week ad schedule for an advertiser – The Harry Brace Roman Spa – for $10,000 over seven days. Bear in mind that this was in the 1970s, when radio time was much less expensive, even on KAAY. In addition, Graham utilized his engineering and production skills, working for advertising agencies, producing and dubbing commercials in his off hours. He and his wife Carolyn founded the firm “Audio Arts,” which became quite successful. Graham also taught radio production courses at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock as an adjunct professor.
In the late 1970s, as AM radio popularity began to wane, and the FM stations in markets began making strides in audience acceptance, Graham became interested in looking to purchase his own broadcast property. He had performed occasional contract engineer work for KVRC and KDEL in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, his hometown radio stations. While there on a job, he mentioned to the owner, John Riggle, that if her was ever interested in selling the stations, to give him a call, so that they could discuss as potential purchase.
After KAAY was purchased by Multimedia Corporation (now Gannett), eventually Graham left KAAY and went to work in the sales department of KTLT-AM and KLITE-FM in Little Rock. Then the call from the Riggle family came. John Riggle’s health was failing and they wished to sell the Arkadelphia stations. Other parties had approached the Riggle family and made offers to buy, but they were true to their word and to talk with Eddie Graham first. Over the next several months, with offers and counter-offers going back and forth, the two parties settled on a purchase price. Once the Federal Communications Commission had approved the sale, the properties were his. Eddie Graham went back home, to own and manage his hometown radio stations. They “sold the farm,” which included their country home and rental properties they owned in the central Arkansas area). He and wife Carolyn settled in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, which is a town of just over 10,000, 60 miles Southwest of Little Rock. By that time, their three children were grown and had moved away. This was in 1985.
Unfortunately, hard times came upon the Clark County and Arkadelphia area. During the first 24 months of radio station ownership, four factories left town, including one that had been in the area for more than 30 years. Left behind was a shaken community, with over 1,200 jobs lost, and a dwindling retail business base. Carolyn Graham continues to teach elementary school at Bryant, commuting from Arkadelphia, a 45-minute drive. Eddie was owner, general manager, sales manager, chief engineer and custodian. During these lean times (Clark County’s unemployment rate was at one point 17%), Graham was able to service the station debt with clever promotions, low cost ideas, and savvy management. The economy picked up, new industries located in the area and the market improved significantly for the entire community, including the Graham Broadcasting Company.
MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUES AND PHILOSOPHY
As a “morning man” for Eddie on KDEL for more than 10 years, I observed that Eddie Graham is the type of manager who operates in a relaxed, casual manner. Unflappable, he rarely “loses it,” when dealing with management decisions or personnel matters. His knowledge of all of the various aspects of the broadcast industry (radio), including FCC regulations, engineering, sales, promotions, some news experience and personnel management gives him a dynamic combination of skills one could hope for, if they owned a broadcast outlet. Graham was very involved and plugged into the community. He was and is a member of the Arkadelphia Rotary Club and served on the board of directors, was an officer in the Clark County Industrial Council, Clark County Fair Board (served one year as president), and the Chamber of Commerce. He and his wife are active and faithful members of the First United Methodist Church of Arkadelphia. The couple is visible and respected in the community. Besides being well liked, Eddie Graham is both trusted and respected. Above all, he is fair minded and honest. These traits carry over into his management style.
One of Eddie Graham’s best friends once said, “Graham is a survivor.” That is certainly a true statement. He is knowledgeable, competent, hard working and honest. In my opinion, you couldn’t find a better candidate to own a broadcast media outlet than Loyd Edward Graham. His efforts impressions left on the broadcast industry of Arkansas have earned him many honors, credits and accolades by his peers in the profession. His ability to survive hard times in a small media market is a tribute to his ingenuity, work ethic and ability to “stay the course and keep the faith.”
Eddie Graham sold his stations in 2002 and retired from the radio business. He and his wife Carolyn purchased another home near Arkadelphia, remodeled and double the size of the structure, and have a couple of acres surrounding it. Graham refers to it as "Towering Pines Ranch," since it has many tal, tall pine trees on the property. They remain active in First United Methodist Church of Arkadelphia. Eddie is in the Arkadelphia Rotary Club, Carolyn is in the Clark County Retired Teachers Association, and they are both active together in the Clark County Fair Association. Eddie hunts and fishes often, and they spend a lot of time on the road, visiting their children and grandchildren.
Eddie Graham - an icon of Arkansas broadcasting!