How Philly & WDAS Radio Protected Malcolm and What Didn’t Happen in New York
Plus a Look at ‘DAS Radio Fans -- at the FBI
©opyright Wynne Alexander 2016
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
By: Wynne Alexander
While making one of many appearances on WDAS Radio's The Listening Post, Malcolm X tells WDAS News Editor and host Joe Rainey, "I 'm really happy to be here tonight Joe Rainey, honored and pleased. This is one of the few programs, a few years ago, that I could get on in this country and get an objective reception."
That was more than an allusion to the fact that Malcolm X was not welcome in many places.
It was also a bit of an inside joke.
There were a lot of extra bodies milling around the station so it wasn't easy getting in the studio that night. In fact, it was damn crowded.
During this particular broadcast, the WDAS studios on Edgeley Drive were surrounded both inside and out by Philadelphia Police and 'civil disobedience' officers. Reliable word had come down through the FBI and others that Malcolm X was going to be assassinated at the radio station.
WDAS Radio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania had already amassed an extraordinary record of national leadership in the Rhythm & Blues broadcast music industry, pioneering news coverage and public affairs arenas. Yet the white and frankly, comfortably racist, general media rarely mentioned WDAS for all the comparative good the station was constantly doing through-out the 1950s, '60s and 70s. But some issues were too big to ignore. Like --
100 Heavily Armed Cops, 14 Dogs and Canine Officers guarding WDAS in the dead of night protecting Malcolm.
The following articles are from December 30, 1964, with Philadelphia Daily News on the left and the Philadelphia Inquirer on the right.
(Editor’s Note: Why The Philadelphia Inquirer had no clue that WDAS award-winning News Director Joe Rainey was anything but a disc jockey remains a mystery of modern civilization. They certainly would not have made that mistake about one-time game show host Mike Wallace of CBS News.)
Malcolm X arriving at WDAS Radio on the night of December 29, 1964 for the 'live' late night broadcast of ‘The Listening Post’ with host, Joe Rainey
General Manager Bob Klein and WDAS Vice President for News, Joe Rainey made a decision. Rainey knew how important broadcasts were to Malcolm X, now back from Mecca, with new visionary ideals, leading his own new organizations, and needing public exposure to boost his influence after breaking with the so-called Nation of Islam under Elijah Muhammad.
So amid an extraordinary police presence in the studio, in the halls, sharpshooters on the WDAS roof, and in the bushes -- the show went on.
All was well in Studio B
The two men chatted as calmly as ever, with no hint of any threats or the dramatic backstage safety precautions. They joked about their mutual acquaintance with Nigerian President Azikiwe, spoke of Malcolm’s 5-month long trip through Africa, the Middle East and Europe, world economics, race relations, human nature and the Future.
All was well. The two men are looking forward. All seemed relatively fine - but not for long.
Malcolm X was killed less than two months later in the Audubon Ballroom in New York. A partial tape of that last WDAS Radio broadcast still exists.
Transcripts of other shows were found too --- in the files of the FBI.
Along with papers like this, one of many:
Joseph H. Rainey III: WDAS newsroom guiding light. Renaissance man, civil rights leader, Executive Director of WDAS Charities, magistrate, boxing commissioner, scholar, athlete, track coach to Nigeria’s future president and “Liberator,” Nnamdi ‘Zik’ Azikiwe, WDAS Vice President for News and Public Affairs, co-creator and host of the ‘Listening Post,’ probably the first African-American radio talk show on the East Coast and the grandson of the first African-American congressman in United States history, noted opponent of the Ku Klux Klan, the Honorable Joseph H. Rainey, Sr.
Joe Rainey's cutting edge news judgment, sense of history, style and guts gave WDAS Radio the indisputable credibility necessary to change the minds of so many. Rainey's relationship with Malcolm X was one amazing example of his many great calls. Joe Rainey was also a visionary.
To say that Malcolm X was misunderstood in his lifetime is an enormously tragic understatement.
The world's embrace of Malcolm X in recent times is not what he experienced himself during his lifetime. He was a man of the future, of big thoughts, big enough to change his mind, to allow the Light to lead him.
But we live in a world that trashes its treasures. Look around - centuries of trashing treasures.
Yet again, the world didn't know what it had.
So many people didn't get it, didn’t know him, didn't like him, didn't give a damn.
Who mourned for Malcolm X ?
Joe Rainey did.
He lost a friend.
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