William Anderson, broadcast legend, dies at 78

William “Cody” Anderson, who was a local broadcast legend and trailblazer, died Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. He was 78.

Anderson came to Philadelphia from Chicago in 1965. After his arrival, he began a broadcasting career that would span 50 years. He started in the sales department of WDAS Radio and quickly rose up through the ranks of management to assistant general manager, general manager and eventually president.

Anderson’s love of music and his unwavering commitment to providing a voice for the voiceless made for an amazing combination. At a time of civil unrest and strife in Philadelphia, Anderson helped create an outlet for communities across the city. He was the originator of WDAS’ Unity Day which, at its height, brought together hundreds and thousands of people to celebrate.

In 1989, Anderson realized his dream of radio station ownership when he purchased the iconic WHAT radio. He established an African-American talk radio format that elevated the voice’s of Philadelphia legends Mary Mason and Georgie Woods, and helped launch the career of Iyanla Vanzant. He is credited with raising the voices of individuals and communities across the city because he believed that no voice is special until it has been heard.

His last foray into broadcasting was general manager of WURD 900 AM/96.1 FM, a station owned by the late Dr. Walter Lomax. Anderson helped to establish the station’s Black talk format, which continues to be the driving force of the station.

Anderson was the co-host of “The Electric Magazine” with Vikki Leach on Saturday mornings. He was the co-host of bi-weekly Saturday morning shows with City Council President Darrell Clarke and Philadelphia Schools Superintendent William Hite. He also hosted the weekly Laborers Live show every Friday.

On Dec. 4, WURD honored Anderson in a three-hour celebration during its annual Empowerment Expo.

A statement from WURD’s President and CEO Sara Lomax-Reese regarding Anderson clearly highlights his efforts at the station.

“It is with a very heavy heart that we acknowledge the passing of radio icon Cody Anderson. According to his family he passed peacefully on Saturday evening. Cody was instrumental in breathing life into WURD and shepherding it over our almost 20 years, first as general manager and most recently as a beloved host, mentor and friend,” Lomax-Reese said.

“Like his biological family, the WURD family will miss him deeply. But we are grateful for his tireless and generous support of independent Black media, which he championed every day of his life, especially through his advocacy of WURD radio.”

In 2000, Anderson formed ACG Associates, a consulting firm he operated with his sons Bill and Kyle. He brought his focus on empowering and informing people to his work at ACG and continued as the principal of the firm until the time of his death.

Former WDAS radio personality Jerry Wells remembers Anderson’s vision, leadership, guidance and direction he provided for the staff during his days at the station. Under Anderson’s tutelage, Wells had one of the city’s most successful morning shows.

“Cody was always from the beginning a very open, very accepting and very much a people person,” said Wells, who had a very popular radio titled “Morning Party” at WDAS FM (1974-86). “He put me to work in the news department, which I stayed there for nine months and then the departure of Rod Carson from WDAS FM. He went to WMMR.

“He and Butterball (WDAS radio legend Joe Tamburro) called me in and told me they were giving me his program. The Morning Show 6-10 on WDAS FM. I did that program until 1986. Over that time, Cody impressed me with how much of a community-oriented people person he was and how much he took to heart the interest of our audience and the needs of our audience in the Black community.

“He often said to me in Philadelphia Black people only have two (radio) stations and it was us and WHAT at that time. So, we have more of a job to do than the other stations can specialize in certain audiences. We have to serve entire families, multiple generations and we have to deliver so much to our community who ha so many needs. We were more of a family than a staff. He was more of a mentor and a friend than a boss.”

Philadelphia City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson remembered Anderson’s contributions as a broadcast legend and family man.

“As the longtime leader at WDAS and WURD radio stations, he was an icon in the African American press. He always spoke truth to power. I will also remember Cody as a wonderful father and family man who was a role model to other fathers like me,” said Johnson in a statement. “He is a pillar in the Black community and his legacy and impact in the lives of Philadelphians will last forever.”

In addition to being a Philadelphia radio legend, Anderson was an outstanding basketball player. He was the captain of the basketball team at Chicago’s Carver High School and led the team to multiple championships. His basketball talents earned him a full scholarship to Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio where he met and fell in love with his wife, Verna.

He was a star guard on the 1964-65 Central State University basketball team. Anderson led the Marauders to a NAIA championship and a undefeated season. The team was inducted into both the Central State Hall of Fame and the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1991, Anderson was inducted into the Central State Hall of Fame

Anderson was born in Denison, Texas on Feb. 25, 1942. He grew up in Chicago, Ill. He grew up in public housing with his parents the late Bernice and William Anderson, and his sisters Loretta, Barbara and Carol.

Anderson is survived by his wife Verna, his children, Kyle, Bill and Theresa, his sisters Loretta, Barbara and Carol, his nieces Denise, Karen, Dana and his nephew Kevin, along with countless friends. He was a 33rd Degree Mason in the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge and a longtime member of the Canaan Baptist Church family.

In a statement from the family, “Obituaries often speak of a person’s accomplishments, but our family wants you to know who our father was. He was a kind man with a gentle, compassionate spirit. He was dedicated and a loyal friend who was always available and fully present in his friendships. He was a man of unwavering faith in God and always saw the best in people. He was funny, creative, smart and giving. His love for his family was only exceeded by our love for him.”

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