Asbury on the Air
In 1932 Rev. Newton King, Jr., proposed the idea of a religious-themed radio program to Dr. Lewis Akers (Asbury College President), Dr. H.C. Morrison(Asbury Seminary President), and Dr. Credo Fitch Harris (Manager of RadioStation WHAS, Louisville, Kentucky). The idea was met with much enthusiasm. Dr. Harris agreed that if Asbury could get a phone line from Wilmore to Louisville, he would offer the facilities of WHAS free of charge for the purpose of such a religious broadcast.
A weekday morning devotional broadcast called the Radio Devotional League was approved by the Asbury College Executive Committee. The program was to contain hymn singing, prayer, special music, testimonies, and a pre-approved message.
The Radio Devotional League premiered on November 1,1932. It ran Monday through Friday from 6-6:30 a.m. CST. Letters and support came from listeners in 36 U.S. states, Canada, and Cuba
The Radio Committee brought in many highly respected guest speakers. Among the speakers were missionaries to India E. Stanley Jones, J.T. Seamands, and J. Waskom Pickett; nationally known evangelists H.C. Morrison, John R. Church, Paul Rees, George W. Ridout, and Pete Wiseman; and great women of God such as Mrs. Charles Cowman, Rosalind Rinker, and Lela G. McConnell.In 1938 the program was running seven days a week, from 6-6:15 a.m. on weekdays and 7:30-8 a.m. on Sundays. That year the full program on Mondays was given to a class of the college or the seminary, the Men’s and Women’s Glee Clubs were featured on Wednesdays and Fridays, and the remaining programs featured other music groups of the college. Sunday mornings were a discussion of the International Sunday School lesson with teachers furnished by the Kentucky Sunday School Association.
In 1940 new management at WHAS expressed dissatisfaction with the current arrangement for the Radio Devotional League and asked that the college take over the entire project. As of July 1, 1940, Asbury College took over full operation and control of the radio program, and it was placed into the college budget. Asbury President Z.T. Johnson hired J. Byron Crouse as the Publicity Director for the program, which was renamed “The Morning Watch”.As a method of fundraising for the program, the Radio Devotional League began offering a series of unique artwork by Asbury graduate Anna Talbott McPherson. Mrs. McPherson used creative shading to turn long written texts from Scripture into pictures of Christ. A McPherson picture was given to listeners of the Radio Devotional League who contributed $7 or more to the program.
In the summer of 1942 the program was suspended by the government due to World War II. The program remained off the air until March 5, 1943. During the hiatus the college lost its direct line to WHAS, and it had to broadcast over a telephone line to Danville, Kentucky, where the program was directed to a private line leased by WHAS.
In 1944 a special appeal was made to listeners for funds to provide American soldiers with Bibles. Over 6,000 Gideon New Testaments were purchased and distributed.
In 1945 WHAS replaced the college’s weekday time slot with a news program, leaving only the Sunday morning program. With only one program a week, the college was no longer financially able to retain a director. Z.T. Johnson and his assistant, Dr. O.H.Callis, maintained the weekly program for a while before discontinuing it in1947.
Listen to a portion of J. Byron Crouse’s traditional signoff to “The Morning Watch”:
Listen to more audio files from “The Morning Watch”
Article written by Matt Kinnell
- Asbury College: Vision and Miracle, by Joseph Thacker
- Asburian yearbook (1940)