Kingsport's First Ham Operator???

Who was the first ham to operate in Kingsport? I had no idea until W4HG forwarded me a copy of this QSL which he had found on the wonderful "QSL Cards of the Past" web site of W8JYZ.

As you can see, this was a QSL from W4AFM in Kingsport, TN to W7BCF. The date of the QSO was May 3 (or maybe March 5), 1931 on 40 meters. The time of the QSO was 0930 "GCT" - that was Greenwich Civil Time, the predecessor of Greenwich Mean Time. I believe that "RAC" Signals meant "Raw AC"!

I have received some very good information on this station from Stephen Melachrinos W3HF. Thanks also to Carl Smith N4AA, Bill Hayes Jr W4ABM (son of the original W4AFM), and to the unnamed staffer at ARRL HQ who researched this call.

The original W4AFM was William Hayes, Sr., who was a land-line telegrapher in the early 1920s. In 1925 or '26. while living in Asheville, NC he became interested in amateur radio and got his license and the call W4AFM. At this point the details become a bit confusing. The December 1929 call book shows W4AFM still assigned to William Hayes. However the June and December 1930 call books list W4AFM as F. Purdy at 112 Ashe St., Bristol, Tenn. By June 1931, Purdy is listed at 1114 Poplar St in Kingsport. The Spring 1932 book lists his name as Fremont F. Purdy at the same Poplar Street address in Kingsport and the listing remained unchanged in following callbooks through Spring 1940. In Fall 1940 he's gone and the call is vacant. After the war William Hayes Sr reclaimed the call, appearing with it in the Winter 1947-48 issue. Mr. Hayes passed away in 2001 at the age of 93 and The Southern Appalachian Radio Museum picked up his call for their club station.

But back to the original question: Was W4AFM the first ham in Kingsport? I don't know, I guess we will never know for sure. Local hams who were active in the late 30s such as W4JD, W4GHL and others have been Silent Keys for a number of years. KI4V (originally W4PAH) got his license here in Kingsport in 1948 and is, as far as I know, the longest active ham in town. Bob says he does not recall hearing W4AFM being mentioned by any of the old timers of that time, nor does he know of any other ham who might have been active here by 1930 or sooner. I suppose that, until someone comes along with a challenger, we will have to assume that Mr. Fremont F. Purdy W4AFM was the first ham here.

Maybe I am too much into nostalgia, but I find this very interesting and I wish that I could find out more. Any information related to W4AFM or any other early ham operations in Kingsport would be greatly appreciated - please contact me at my QRZ.COM e-mail address. My sincere thanks to those who graciously provided me the above information about this station and call sign.

UPDATE #1 - 8/24/08

I received an e-mail from Bill K4CIA this morning. He has all of the old QSTs on CD and did some digging! It appears that W4AFM may not have been the first ham in Kingsport. Read on:

I have been sleuthing in my old QSTs. Starting in 1929 and looking for any reference to Kingsport and/or W4AFM. This has been an interesting morning and you will be surprised, perhaps.

All this info has been gleaned from the Divisional Reports submitted to QST each month from the SCMs. Just like it always has been.

First reference to Kingsport was:July, 1930: Philip Stout old 5XK will be on soon with call letters W4AAD in Kingsport.    *
Sept '30: W4AFM is an old ham who used to operate W8VJ in Huntington, West Virginia
Oct '30: W4AFM had a ham gathering at his home of all the hams in upper East Tennessee and reports FB results. He is getting things going around Bristol. He also broadcasts code practice for beginners on 7100 kc at 8PM EST on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Jan '31: W4AFM is responsible for all the new stations reporting. W4HG, formerly W4ABZ, is rebuilding.
Apr '31:We have three new stations, W4APO and W4AOI in Bristol, and W4ANM in Kingsport.
May '31: W4AFM has a new crystal outfit on the air.
Jun '31: W4AFM is our new RM for East Tennessee
Nov 31: W4AFM on a recent trip to the coast looked over the radio equipment at the Naval Base and on the German seaplane DO-X
Dec 31: First report from W4ANM
May 32: W4AFM at Kingsport is our eastern link in Tennessee (to nets)
Dec 32: W4AFM is listed as SCM of Tennessee. F. F. Purdy, 1114 Poplar St. Kingsport, Tennessee.

*   NOTE: Per K4CIA's research, 5XK was assigned to Philip Stout in Knoxville, TN beginning in April, 1921. See

Interesting stuff and thanks a bunch to Bill K4CIA for this information. He promises to do more digging and I will do some research on W4AAD and W4ANM. Now that Bill has found the information, I think I recall that Forrest W4JD may have long ago mentioned that W4AAD callsign and the name Phil Stout.

Now it is starting to sound as if W4AAD was possibly an earlier Kingsport ham than W4AFM, but more research is needed. Also, new ham W4ANM may have been active in Kingsport before W4AFM moved here from Bristol. And who was W4ANM? It gets more interesting all the time (at least to me)!



Page updated 08/24/2008