James Freeman, Oral History


James Freeman, Oral History


James Freeman, a Birmingham radio deejay who worked at WJLD 1400 and WEDR 1220 on and off for some 17 years. He spent some time in Columbus, Georgia and in Dayton, Ohio as a gospel announcer and then returned to Birmingham. He recalls his time on the air and his recollections of the civil rights struggles in Birmingham.


James Freeman
Bob Friedman


Birmingham Black Radio Museum


June 3, 1994


Kimberly McDade
Emily Bibb






Bob Friedman


James Freeman


Transcription of audio snippet:

James Freeman: I tell you what…uh… EDR was very intriguing for me. You know, at that time, you had the Shelley Stewarts. You know Shelley “the playboy” was very hot, very popular, and you had Walter Anglin, and you had Eddie Castleberry, you know, Wiley Daniels, and then later on you had Rev. S. T. Spencer and Rev. Gatemouth Moore. So, I came around, I thought, some of the greatest announcers I’ve ever been around. So, you see, I didn’t have to go to school. What I did was just sit there…

Bob Friedman - …and learn.

JF - …and learn.

BF – Yeah.

JF – I learned from the pros. So, I thank them for that though.

BF- So now, Eddie Castleberry, we’re in touch with him. He’s up in New York. He left Birmingham in 1955, went down to Washington and then to Florida; WMBM. All these greats that you mentioned… When you were at WEDR, how long were you there for…a couple of years?

JF – A couple of years. About a couple of years.

BF – What I would like you to do if you can is reflect on what it was like at JLD on the mountain. I’m going to ask you later on about BCO and WEDR. What do you remember walking into the building? Was there anything unique about the building or where you went? Did you get a chance to meet Bob Umbach before he left town?

JF – Sure did. I sure did. I sure did. What was so unique about that every Saturday morning I would walk up the hill and walk down the hill.

BF – That long hill.

JF – That long hill. But you know what, during that time that hill wasn’t so long. Walk up the hill and down the hill…I enjoyed that. On Sunday nights you could come out, you could stand, you could look out over the city. It was nice. You know, under the tower it was just beautiful. Sometimes you could go up there and just spread your blanket out and look over…just look over the city. That was what was so unique about JLD. And then plus the fact that JLD was a beautiful building. It was almost a new building when I got there. If two cars try to come down the hill one had to pull over and let the other one down. So, it was unique, you know. And here I am a youngster enjoying that, you know.

BF – Sure. Now, Roy told me as well it was segregated studios when he got there.


Full interview: 32 minutes
Audio snippet: 2 minutes


Approx 1974 - (l-r) Larry Levan and James Freeman at WJLD remote from the Willie Mckinstry scrapbook.jpg
James Freeman  2 min a.mp3
James Freeman 1994.pdf


James Freeman and Bob Friedman, “James Freeman, Oral History,” The Birmingham Black Radio Museum, accessed July 13, 2024, https://www.thebbrm.org/item/105.

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