March 30, 1987
Alabama Broadcasters Association
Selection Committee Broadcaster of 1987
Post Office Box 43525
Birmingham, Al. 35243
Agnes Simpson nomination
Dear Committee Members:
I have been intimately associated since 1948 with Agnes Simpson and WOOF AM-FM Radio Station in Dothan, Alabama. Probably closer than anyone else. Based on more than 38 years of observing Agnes and WOOF and the way she has run this radio station and her life, I recommend her in the most highest way for the Broadcaster Of The Year award.
Both of her parents died when she was an early age. Having little family, she was picked up by her Aunt Hazel and Uncle Will and raised in Dunedin, Florida. Many years later, she attended the University of Alabama where she met and later married the man of her dreams, R.A. Dowling.
After World War II, in which she and R.A. Dowling both served America, they pooled their time and resources and put WOOF on the air about the year I was born (1948). Old-timers tell me that Agnes and R.A. did most of the work for, as you remember, times were hard after World War II.
Extra time was being spent by Agnes raising four young children born to her and her husband in 1947, 1948, 1951, and 1954. When the fourth child was born, they finally moved from the old NCO barracks they bought near Dothan, and built a home on the outskirts of Dothan where Agnes still lives. Raising her four children, Agnes began spending a lot of time in church and charity work, while R.A. devoted more of his time (as was the custom in business and civic affairs), including a term of the National Peanut Festival as chairman, president of the Lions Club, etc.
Different formats were tried to make the radio successful. They kept the costs of advertising low so that small local businessmen could advertise. WOOF was the only station that I know of in the South which started out in 1948 letting the black gospel quartets have air time on Sunday mornings and they are still on at almost-free rates. Agnes and R.A. let preachers buy time, carried ”Back To The Bible” for many years, local football local golf including the Future Masters Golf Tournament for America’s youngsters and which is now the leading golf tournament t for youngsters.
Although some of their competitors laughed, Agnes has always been the only radio leader who still lets free announcements be made for lost dogs and lost cats. Too many broadcasters can’t sell it, so they don’t do it. Hundreds of people who have recovered their beloved animals because of WOOF will testify that -- for that reason alone -- Agnes deserves Broadcaster Of The Year. A true public service.
Things rocked along in the ’50s. Then a tragic event occurred in August of 1960. At home one Sunday morning getting her four young children ready for church, the telephone rang. Her husband had been crushed by a tractor and would never be home again. His funeral was a few days later.
Agnes Simpson had to take the reins of the radio station, handle the estate of her late husband, and had to raise the four children, the oldest of whom was 13. Skipping many, many years of hard work and loneliness as a single parent, let me just say that all the children did well in school. All except the baby graduated from colleges and are doing well in the business world. The two oldest boys served in the U.S. Army; one obtained an MBA and is working as Compensation Director for a large industry in Dallas, Texas. The other graduated with honors from law school and has practiced law in Dothan since 1976. The girl is the proud, married mother of three small girls after doing some work for our U.S. Embassy in Japan. The baby boy is now 32 and computerizing much of WOOF Radio.
In the meantime, Agnes probably was the first woman to put an FM station on the air, way back in 1963. I have attended many meetings of the Alabama Broadcasters, and only recall one other woman ever being as involved in broadcasting (a lady from Northport Alabama whose name escapes me at the moment)
I venture to say that 99% of everyone who has ever met Agnes Simpson are in 100% agreement that she should awarded this honor. If you have any doubts, pick any name out of the Broadcasters’ roster and call them. Call any community leader in southeast Alabama, black or white, male or female. Enclosed is a list that I prepared which only scratches the surface in listing ”what she has done.”
There are hundreds of items which will never be listed, even though they reinforce what a wonderful woman Agnes Simpson is. For example, her second son had a serious head accident many, many years ago. He was hospitalized for weeks, on the verge of slipping into a coma. In addition to the other things she had going on, Miss Agnes spent nights in the hospital next to her stricken son, and cared for him when he convalesced at home for another month or two. I know, because that son was me.
Agnes Simpson is the most wonderful person in the world. She will be the first woman to receive this award as Broadcaster Of The Year. I pray that you will award it to her.
Very truly yours,
Brian Westervelt Dowling
Son of Agnes Westervelt Simpson