Wayne Brown, a former Charlotte radio executive active in the city’s civic community, died in Atlanta over the weekend of liver cancer. He was 55.
Brown came to Charlotte in 1991 and took over WPEG-FM (“Power 98”), which was then broadcasting from Concord, and oversaw the takeover in the 1990s of WBAV-FM (“V 101.9”). “Power 98” and “V” are now owned by CBS Radio and are among the area’s strongest stations.
He was active in leadership positions at Charlotte Repertory Theatre, Charlotte Chamber, 100 Black Men of Charlotte, the Levine Museum of the New South, the Community Building Task Force, United Way of the Carolinas, the Urban League and the N.C. Association of Broadcasters.
Brown left Charlotte in 2000 to manage Atlanta stations owned by Radio One, the nation’s largest radio company targeting African-American listeners. Most recently he worked as general manager of Atlanta radio station “Streetz 94.5 FM.”
A native of Washington, D.C., Brown grew up in northeastern North Carolina, the son of a barber and beautician. After graduation from Syracuse University, he went right into sales – hawking Vicks cold medicine on the beaches of Long Island – and succeeded.
His first job in broadcasting came in 1978 as an overnight security guard at New York’s WCBS-AM. Thirteen years later, after working his way up to general sales manager, the company decided to move him to Charlotte to oversee “Power 98.”
“When I first started out and told people I wanted to go into sales, they said, ‘Wayne, you have three strikes against you: You’re black, you’re young and you look young,” Brown said in a 1991 interview with the Observer. “Thirteen years later, I’m still black, I’m still young and I still look young. You just can’t let uncontrollable variables get in your way.”
Brown started a communications scholarship at Syracuse to help minority students.
Brown is survived by his wife, Nyesa, and two sons.