Most people take our local AM radio station for granted; however, when one considers the sources we rely on to keep us informed, I am willing to bet most Newberry County residents would have WKDK near the top of the list. Why? Consider the daily services WKDK brings to our community! Not only can you hear a great blend of music, you will also hear the latest breaking news (local, national, and world), and it will be broadcast instantly by Jimmie Coggins or his staff.
I believe if we are going to fully appreciate this gem many of us tune into every day, we should know its history, which began way back in 1949. Every generation has visionaries, and back then Newberry had John Clarkson. Now John had visited Anderson, South Carolina and had heard Mr. Jimmie Francis Coggins on their local radio station. John was impressed and felt Newberry needed “that voice” broadcasting in Newberry. So, as deals typically happen, he approached Jimmie and a deal was reached. This partnership brought Jimmie F. Coggins to Newberry as owner of WKDK.
Jimmie F. becoming a visionary, too, and he quickly became an ally of John Clarkson, who felt that textiles would not last. They started searching for industries to relocate in Newberry County. Other visionaries to step up were people like Hubert Setzler, who not only was president of Newberry College, but also very involved in economic development. He also felt the need to keep his students engaged in the community and worked tirelessly in that area. Another great visionary in Newberry was Dr. Jim Wiseman. Born in Newberry, he disliked seeing Newberry become rundown, so he envisioned restoring the Newberry Opera House. The renovation was completed, new stores and restaurants opened, and here we now sit with a busy Main Street, and Newberry County is doing quite well. However, we are not finished. Opportunities abound in our great county!
I feel cheated I never met Jimmie F. Coggins. However, Newberry residents tell me that Jimmie Parkes Coggins is a clone of his father. The elder Coggins was married to Marcia Parkes Coggins and together, they had four daughters and the present day Jimmie, who continues to give back to the community, just like his father. Radio had been his life, and he fondly remembers WKDK reporting big events such as the 1984 tornado. On Friday, March 28, many citizens of Newberry vividly recalled just what they were doing 30 years ago when the tornado came up Main Street at 5:18 p.m., taking the life of Chris Epting.
The younger Jimmie, who was returning from Columbia, remembers listening to his father warn his listeners at 5 p.m. of a tornado approaching Newberry from the direction of Greenwood. Jimmie also remembers that part of the city lost power, including WKDK; however, young Jimmie Parkes Coggins and his young family lived next door at 3014 Hazel Street and oddly enough had power, so a call was made to West Electric, and Billye West, another visionary, quickly ran a temporary line from Jimmie’s house to the radio station and within three to four hours, WKDK was back on the air with up to date information and remained “on the air” for the next forty-eight hours. Folks, that is dedication.
The dedication of the Coggins family, and their passion for not only Newberry College and the city of Newberry, goes much deeper. The younger Jimmie Coggins took over where his father left off and has remained at the forefront for economic development throughout the County, the growth of Newberry College, as well as promoting downtown Newberry. So, this past Friday as we remembered the disastrous tornado that came roaring up Main Street 30 years ago, make it a point to remember the contributions that the Coggins family, as well as each of the visionaries, both past and present, have made. Who will be next generation of visionaries for Newberry County? Will it be you stepping forward to make a difference?
WKDK also has a history of supporting your Newberry County Chamber of Commerce which is deeply committed to the growth and well being of Newberry County residents. We work closely with our elected leaders keeping the doors of communication open regarding legislation that affects our members businesses. So, why not make your commitment to become a Chamber member? Stop in or call 276-4274 and let Liz, Michelle, Shevonna, or me tell you the many benefits of Chamber membership. We would appreciate having the opportunity to meet you!