Jim Wilder was born in Columbus and reared in LaGrange. When he was a boy, he built an addition on to his family’s’ house where he tinkered with radios. That early interest in engineering led him to a career in radio and he worked at stations in LaGrange, Macon, Griffin, Moultrie, and Savannah. He held nearly every job in the station and when he was chief engineer at WFRP in Savannah, he and his family lived on the second floor of the building that housed the station.
In 1955, Wilder moved to Marietta where he and his partners built WBIE, a 500 watt AM station at 1050. In the early 60’s Jim built WBIE FM-101.5, one of the first FMs in Georgia. In 1968, WBIE AM changed its call letters to WCOB and increased its power to 10,000 watts. WBIE FM increased its power to 100,000 watts. Jim was an early believer in FM radio; he gave away FM receivers to encourage listenership. Contrary to the trend at that time, he did not simulcast his AM, instead making WBIE FM the first country FM station in the Atlanta market.
Jim also hosted the morning show, “TNT” (time, news, temperature) and was nicknamed “Scoop”. Jim had a mobile unit equipped with Marietta police and fire two way radios. He was called to the scene of accidents and fires, not only do “live mobile reports”, but to take official photos for the agencies. Later he was appointed Chairman of The Marietta Civil Service Board, a position he held for many years. Jim was so admired by the community that his funeral procession was accompanied by an honorary escort by the Marietta Police and Fire Departments.
In his book, THEY HEARD GEORGIA SINGING, Zell Miller remembers Jim as a man “beloved by all country music artists for his continuing support of the business and for his understanding and generosity in encouraging and giving free air time to new songwriters and performers.” It was not unusual to see the likes of Chet Atkins or Dolly Parton at the station, stopping by to say hello.
A the time of his death Jim was one of the oldest active broadcasters in Georgia and although he did not live to see his predictions for the future of FM radio fully come true, he made a significant mark on radio in Georgia and mentored many aspiring radio people. Southern Polytechnics State University named its communication building in Wilders' honor.
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