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Black History Month - Cathy Hughes, A Tribute to Women of Color and Substance
“It is not enough for you to do your very best. You must do what is required of the situation.” Cathy Hughes
Catherine Elizabeth Woods, born 1947, in Omaha Nebraska, her father, William Alfred Woods, was one of the first African American's to receive a degree in accounting from Creighton University in Nebraska. Woods' mother, Helen Jones Woods, was a member of a Mississippi private boarding school orchestra at Piney Woods School, which her father founded.
Catherine is the oldest of four children and was the first African American to attend the local Catholic Girl's School. Woods, had her future on track until, at age 16, she became pregnant. Marrying the baby's father, Alfred Liggins, Sr, she soon gave birth to a son, Alfred Liggins, Jr. His birth is what put her life right again and given birth to an insatiable drive.
"The Quiet Storm"
The Hughes / Liggins union lasted only two years, afterwards Cathy became a single mother. Graduating high school Hughes enrolled in business administration courses while working as an administrative assistant at Howard University. Her boss, Tony Brown, a commentator of some note, founded the university's school of communications.
Cathy was such an asset to Brown that he transferred her to the school's radio station in 1973, where she was promoted to general manager and vice president by1975. Hughes created a format called "The Quiet Storm" which featured silky throat deejays playing sexy love songs all through the night.
Hughes was convinced that this format was a gold mine, and tried to get Howard to license it, but they disagreed. Undaunted this event taught Cathy a valuable lesson, from now on she would seek positions where she had more creative control and imput.
Cathy's First Radio Station
In the late 1970s and early 1980s Hughes remarried to Dewey Hughes, and went about pursuing her dream of purchasing her own radio station. Cathy and her husband purchased WOL-AM for $950,000, using $100,000 in savings, $300,00 from an African American venture capital firm and $150,000 from investors.
The venture was rocky and so was her marriage, she kept the station, but lost her husband. Her divorce stressed her economically, but she worked through it changing the format of the radio station from all talk to a talk and music format.
Profit from the station finally generated in 1986. The following year Cathy purchased her second radio station WMMJ-FM for $7.5 million. It was a tough purchase, because the owners kept increasing the price, but her son Alfred Liggins, Jr, insisted they stay the course and purchase the station.
Today Hughes, along with her son who is CEO, control 65 radio stations the largest Afro American owned radio conglomerate in the nation. In 2004 Cathy launched TVone a cable station whose central focus is on the Afro American community. Employing 2200 women and men with a high volume of people of color, fulfilling her goal to hire creative, ambitious men, women and minorities who need a chance, and a platform to showcase their talents in the industry.
Hughes has been criticized by some who say she pays more attention to her bottom line than matters important to the Afro American community. Hughes' commentaries and her pro-African American stance has been chided as racist against other races by a few.
Cathy's take on these criticisms; "my dream is to provide lucrative employment opportunities for other blacks in an industry where there are so few opportunities"
My thoughts; if not Ms. Hughes then who? Where in this nation will blacks reap this type of opportunity if other Afro American's don't clear a path? If some perceive this as a racist action then it is what it is. Historically, there have been many blacks, like Cathy Hughes, who are driven to make a difference, to defy the odds ignoring detractors. Clearly dispelling the racist stereotype that we as a people are all waiting with our hands out to be spoon fed success.
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