Reginald Nelson Lavong, 84, a radio broadcasting pioneer and station owner, 84, died Sept. 19.
Mr. Lavong was an on-air personality who went on to own WHAT-AM (1340) and was one of the first black men to be part owner of a television station. His deep love of music led him to work in the music industry before he eventually returned to radio in Philadelphia.
Affectionately and professionally known as Reggie, Mr. Lavong was born in Gainesville, Fla., in 1933. Following the death of his mother, Honey Nelson, when he was 2 years old, he was adopted by cousin Mae Lavong, who raised him in Brooklyn with her husband, Walter. Mr. Lavong would begin his long relationship with Philadelphia when he arrived to attend Temple University.
During his time at Temple, Mr. Lavong became involved with the school’s station, WRTI, as an announcer. That experience led to his first broadcasting job, at a small commercial station in Vineland, N.J., while he was a junior in college.
“My father was very determined,” said his son Daryl Lavong. “When he wanted to do something, he went fully into doing it.”
After Temple, Mr. Lavong met and married Joyce Hightower, who passed away in 2013.
Mr. Lavong worked at radio stations geared to black audiences throughout his career, including ones in Norfolk, Va.; Wilmington; Chicago; and New York. “One of the big things he talked about was his flexibility,” Daryl Lavong said of his father’s career. “He did jazz and R&B, but he also did country. He did all different genres because he could adjust his voice and style to fit whatever he needed it to.”
In 1964, Mr. Lavong partnered with fellow radio personality Georgie Woods to become part owners of WPHL-17 (along with Aaron Katz and Leonard Stevens), making them the first two African American men in the United States to co-own a TV station.
Source: Philly.com / Nick Vadala