Dorothy E. Brunson, who became the first African-American woman in the nation to own a TV and radio station when she bought WEBB-AM in Baltimore and later WGTW-TV Channel 48 in Philadelphia in 1986, died Sunday of complications from ovarian cancer at Mercy Medical Center.
The Northwest Baltimore resident was 72.
“Thanks to the pioneering work of Ms. Brunson, the world of broadcast media was opened up to African-American entrepreneurs and business leaders,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. “Her vision and commitment to excellence at every level of the business led to her success and paved the way for others to find success in cities across America.”
In New York City, she co-founded Howard Sanders Advertising, which was one of the first African-American advertising agencies in the U.S., and Madison Avenue’s first.
She was known for turning stations’ operations around by reducing staff and debt, and eventually expanding them. In 1978, she turned WLIB-AM Radio, a failing operation, into the sixth-largest radio station in the nation.
She gained listeners by initiating a Top 40 format that also leaned heavily on rhythm and blues.
“I realized I had my work cut out for me,” she said in a 1986 interview. “I had to build an image, gain credibility and make it a strong voice in the black community.”
She is recorded as saying, “The ultimate challenge is to be the great entrepreneur. The great businesswoman. I want to be a great businesswoman. It’s a dream.”
Looking back, it’s safe to say she achieved that dream. Working Woman described Ms. Brunson as “one of radio’s great innovators.”
Through the years, Ms. Brunson’s success was chronicled in Time magazine and The Wall Street Journal. She enjoyed mentoring young businesswomen and served as a consultant to various businesses.
In more recent years, she was the owner of Bright Light Media, a Baltimore public relations firm, as well as owning and operating insurance and real estate development companies.
Ms. Brunson was a member of Pennsylvania AME Zion Church,1128 Pennsylvania Ave., where funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday. Her accomplishments are unrivaled and will continue to inspire long past her unfortunate death.
She is survived by her two sons, Edward Brunson and Daniel Brunson; two brothers, Clyde Porter Jr. and Jerome Porter; a sister, Geraldine Jordan; and seven grandchildren.
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