William “Cody” Anderson, 78, an iconic leader in Black radio in Philadelphia for decades, died Saturday, Feb. 20, of complications from COVID-19, his family said.
Friends said they learned only a week ago that Mr. Anderson was in the hospital. He would have celebrated a birthday this Thursday.
Mr. Anderson was the cohost of Electric Magazine on Saturday mornings on WURD 96.1 FM/900 AM. He had also been the first general manager at WURD, the only African American-owned-and-operated talk radio station in Pennsylvania.
Before that, he was a longtime general manager for WDAS-FM 105.3 FM and a former owner of WHAT-1340 AM, where he instituted a Black talk-radio format.
“Cody was instrumental in breathing life into WURD and shepherding it over our almost 20 years, first as General Manager and most recently as a beloved host, mentor and friend,” WURD president and CEO Sara Lomax-Reese said in a statement released Sunday.
“Like his biological family, the WURD family will miss him deeply. But we are grateful for his tireless and generous support of independent Black media, which he championed every day of his life, especially through his advocacy of WURD Radio.”
Only two months ago, on Dec. 4, WURD honored Mr. Anderson during its annual Empowerment Expo.
In addition to his weekly Electric Magazine show, Mr. Anderson was also cohost of biweekly Saturday morning shows along with City Council President Darrell Clarke and Philadelphia School Superintendent Dr. William R. Hite Jr.
In addition, he was a cohost of the weekly Laborer’s Live show every Friday afternoon.
Bilal Qayyum, founder and president of the Father’s Day Rally Committee, said Mr. Anderson headed WDAS in the years when celebrity disc jockeys like Georgie Woods, Douglas “Jocko” Henderson and Joe “Butterball” Tamburro ruled the airwaves.
“Cody was low-key, but he was a force,”” Qayyum said. “He wasn’t loud or anything, but he was a force in Black radio and Black media, period.”
He also said many people who entered radio broadcasting in those years got their start because of him.
“Back then, Black radio was the voice of the community. We didn’t have cell phones, we didn’t have social media. If you wanted to know what was happening in the Black community, you listened to WDAS under Cody,” Qayyum said.
But it wasn’t all just music and talk radio. In those days, Qayyum said that he and the late former state Rep. David P. Richardson would meet with Mr. Anderson regularly to talk about increasing Black political power by strategizing to help get more Black people elected to office.
“He was a catalyst for change in the City of Philadelphia,” Qayyum said.
Clarke announced Mr. Anderson’s death late Saturday night on social medial.
“Cody was a pioneer and giant in broadcast journalism in the Black community in Philadelphia for decades. He was a consistent, constructive, confident, voice on the air,” Clarke said. “He encouraged persons of color to enter politics, to serve people, and make their communities better places to live.
“A symbol of positivity, class and achievement for our community is gone. It is on us now to carry on in his memory and in service to others. Rest in Power, my good friend.”
My thoughts on the passing of my dear friend and @onwurd co-host #CodyAnderson. My prayers are with his family and colleagues tonight. Rest in Power, sir. pic.twitter.com/jYwvh2czpC
— Darrell Clarke (@Darrell_Clarke) February 21, 2021
Patty Jackson, who hosts The Patty Jackson Show on WDAS and also an oldies show on Sunday evenings, said Mr. Anderson approved hiring her.
“He made it possible that I became a part of a legacy of broadcasting in Philadelphia,” Jackson said Sunday. “Cody loved the community. He understood how our community needed to be served and not overlooked.
“If you worked at a radio station that Cody was in charge of, more than the music, more than any of that, it was how well you served the community.”
Former WDAS radio news director Karen Warrington said Mr. Anderson allowed her to pursue stories she wanted to, without restricting her.
“He gave me almost free rein as a news director,” she said. “We were able to tell the stories that were not being told in the majority media.”
He was first a family man, she added. “His family was most important to him, and in a sense, ‘DAS was his second family.”
Said one of Mr. Anderson’s sons, Bill: “He was a wonderful man and a better father.”
Mr. Anderson was born in Denison, Texas, in February 1942 to William and Berniece Anderson. He grew up in Chicago and, in 1965, graduated from Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. While there, he was a star basketball player.
The Dayton Daily News reported that the 1964-65 Central State Marauders was “one of the greatest college basketball teams Ohio has known.” Central State inducted Mr. Anderson into its Athletics Hall of Fame in 1991.
He moved to Philadelphia in 1965.
In their younger years in Philadelphia, Qayyum, 74, said he and Mr. Anderson would face off at city basketball courts. Although Mr. Anderson was a few years older, he said, he still had a fierce game.
“We’ve lost another giant in the Black community,” Qayyum said.
In addition to his son, Mr. Anderson is survived by his wife, Verna; his daughter, Teresa; and another son, Kyle.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced.