About WMTC – 99.9 FM
With a vision to reach the surrounding community, Dr. Wilfred Fisher founded WMTC (“Winning Men to Christ”) in June of 1948 as a part of the Kentucky Mountain Holiness Association. For thirty years, he served as the general manager until 1978. Actively investing in the community, Seldon Short continued the work until his retirement in 2006. Under Seldon’s leadership, WMTC added the FM 99.9 station in 1991 and modified the motto to “Winning Many to Christ.” In 2006 WMTC began playing southern gospel full-time, and our name changed to Mountain Gospel.
Learn more about the early years of WMTC here:
WMTC Mountain Gospel Radio was founded in 1948 as part of the Kentucky Mountain Holiness Association, but how was WMTC established? Whose idea was it to start a Christian radio station in the hills of Eastern Kentucky? This is the history of WMTC from the perspective of its founding manager Dr. Wilfred Fisher.
After graduating from Asbury seminary in 1939, Dr. Fisher and his wife Alice came to Kentucky Mountain Bible Institute where they were invited to come teach. One time while visiting family back in Oregon, Dr. Fisher was telling his Father-in-law Floyd Boyington about the Christian work being done in Eastern Kentucky. “I told him about Mt. Carmel High School and KMBI,” said Dr. Fisher, “and Floyd suggested that it would be nice to have a radio station.” He agreed that this would be good, but to Dr. Fisher the possibility of having a radio station in the association was “none at all” due to finances.
He continued to tell Floyd about the Kentucky Mountain Holiness Association and all of the churches in the area. “When I was finished,” said Dr. Fisher, “He brought up the idea again of a radio station. He said that he had twenty thousand dollars to start it! This made the difference.” WMTC came from the idea of Floyd Boyington and the money that he donated to build it. In 1948 WMTC was established with Dr. Fisher as its first general manager.
Even though money was being donated to build a radio station, this did not solve all of the problems with establishing WMTC.
An issue that had to be dealt with was whether or not a radio station would even be accepted in the area. Some people were asking, “Is a radio station something we really want and need in the association?” This question had to be settled before the work could begin. Other people asked, “Why can’t we use the money for some evangelistic campaign?” However, the money was given to start a radio station, and it would be used in that way or not be accepted at all. Dr. Lela McConnell, the founder of the KMHA, was in favor of the radio station; and the work went ahead.
Another problem involved getting electricity for the new radio station. Dr. Fisher relates that when he and his wife came to KMBI, there was no electricity. A radio station needs good reliable electricity, and electric power for the area was poor and not readily available. “I talked to the power company,” said Dr. Fisher, “The power company said that if we put a radio station in, they would do all they could to get power.” This was a great blessing for establishing WMTC. Dr. Fisher stated that two power lines from two directions were brought in for the station. This provided WMTC with reliable electricity. “Sometimes we would have power when no one else would,” remarked Dr. Fisher.
Also before WMTC could be established, they needed a radio engineer. “The first thing you needed to start a radio station in those days was someone with a radio engineer’s license first class,” said Dr. Fisher, “and no one in the association was anywhere near having that license.” However, there was a good Christian man in Lexington named Marty Picaso who was an engineer. Dr. Fisher said that he had a good salary being an engineer working in Lexington, and the Kentucky Mountain Holiness Association could not pay him a salary for working at WMTC. No one was being paid a salary in the association, but Marty agreed to come help establish WMTC. Kenneth Amspaugh became the next radio engineer after Marty Picaso, and Dr. Fisher eventually got his license as well.
The original cost to build WMTC was about twenty-one thousand dollars. Fifteen thousand dollars of Floyd Boyington’s money went directly into building the station. “These were the beginning days,” said Dr. Fisher.
Much history can be found in just WMTC’s radio frequency. How did WMTC come to be on 730 AM?
“We wanted the lowest frequency possible,” said Dr. Fisher. Low frequencies are good for hilly country because they reach into the valleys better than high frequencies which skip across the mountain tops. “We wanted to reach the people in the valleys.” Dr. Fisher explained that the lowest frequency available was in the 600s range. They wanted this frequency, but another group applied for it and got it. The next lowest frequency was 730 AM, but there was also a problem in trying to get this frequency. About the same time, the governor of West Virginia also applied for this frequency.
Dr. Fisher and others came to the conclusion that WMTC should be on 730 AM or nothing at all. They did not want to cause a conflict over this issue, but this frequency was the most desirable for the new station. Eventually the governor decided not to apply for it anymore, and WMTC received the 730 AM frequency.
Sometime after the station was established, they discovered that it was better for WMTC to be on 730 AM rather than on the other frequency in the 600s range that they had originally wanted. Dr. Fisher explained that there were two large stations in the area at this time, one in Louisville and one in Cincinnati. WMTC’s 730 frequency was in between these two stations, so “when people would change between these two stations, they would come across WMTC in the middle.” Dr. Fisher said that this resulted in more people knowing about the existence of WMTC in the early days. In 1948 WMTC went on the air with 1,000 watts on 730 AM.
Now that WMTC was established, there were questions about what programs would be aired. Will it all be religious? Dr. Fisher explained that it would all be Christian in character but not necessarily all Christian programs. For example, once a week groups from local schools would come to do a program with the kids on the air. The station became well known from this since the parents would listen to their children on the radio.
One program that has been on WMTC from the beginning is the Birthday Club started by Louis Bouck. This program is still being aired on weekdays at 10:00 AM and 7:30 PM. Dr. Fisher stated that Mr. Bouck was “a genius in front of the microphone.”
For other programs, pastors would come and bring their churches to do a service on the air. Other times students from KMBI would sing and testify for programs. The Church of the Air was what this was called. Dr. Fisher said that he really enjoyed preaching on the radio himself.
Sometimes people would stay home to listen to WMTC instead of going to church. A time was worked out that was for people to be at their own churches. Dr. Fisher explained that they did not want to take people away from their own churches.
WMTC Mountain Gospel radio still provides uplifting Christian music and programming.
WMTC was founded as a Christian work and remains that to this day. This is the purpose of Mountain Gospel Radio.
Not all of the programs were specifically Christian; but whatever programs would be on the air, Dr. Fisher said that the emphasis was to keep the station Christian — to “show people their need for Christ and need to be sanctified.”
WMTC radio has blessed the lives of people in many ways. “Sometimes you don’t see what happens,” said Dr. Fisher, “but one thing that I have seen was that before there was a station, I would do three-week revivals to prepare people.” Dr. Fisher said that long revivals would prepare hearts because people did not know much about holiness, and now the radio station with its Christian programs helped in teaching people. Dr. Fisher noted that WMTC prepared people for the message of holiness. The Christian emphasis of Mountain Gospel Radio has not changed since these beginning years. The purpose is still to “show people their need for Christ.”
For 70 years WMTC Mountain Gospel Radio has ministered to Eastern Kentucky over the air waves. Much of the success of this ministry can be attributed to the leadership of its founding General Manager, Dr. Wilfred Fisher. For 30 years Dr. Fisher directed the station from its founding in 1948.
On November 14, 2014, Dr. Wilfred Fisher went home to be with the Lord. During his lifetime of 100 years, Dr. Fisher had experienced much and had many stories to tell. These stories warranted an interview, and with the help of the workers at the Health Care Center, current General Manager, Dan Lorimer set up an interview with Dr. Fisher to capture these timeless memories.
With lights, camera, and sound equipment set up, Dan Lorimer proceeded to ask Dr. Fisher specific questions to elicit stories from the early days of WMTC Radio. Dr. Fisher related such events as the founding of WMTC and the story behind its 730 AM frequency. Personal stories of struggles and successes were captured as Dr. Fisher shared events both miraculous and humorous from his time as general manager. Throughout the interview, Dr. Fisher gave all the glory to God for the success of Mountain Gospel Radio. We were very privileged to have this opportunity to record Dr. Fisher’s experiences for our archives.
We thank the staff of the Wolfe County Health Care Center for their assistance in performing this interview.
Soli Deo gloria!