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Intersection: Donn R. Colee & The History Of Florida Broadcasting


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How did radio get started in the Sunshine State? Donn R. Colee Jr, who first hit the airwaves as a teenage rock and roll DJ, tells Intersection about the early days of broadcasting, and the role of television and radio in the civil rights movement.

Colee is the author of Towers in the Sand, the history of Florida Broadcasting. He began his career as a rock and roll DJ in Orlando. He served in the US Navy and worked in advertising before returning to broadcasting, working in marketing, community relations, programming and as the station manager for Channel 12 in West Palm Beach.

Before he started spinning The Beatles and other rock n’ roll records, Colee played religious tapes on Sunday mornings.

“Then they let me have first one hour then two hours on Sunday mornings to play rock and roll  music and that expanded to Saturday to Sunday night six to midnight,” he said.

Colee said when his father was 14 or 15 years old he got his first job in radio as a disc jockey.

“He was playing an afternoon program geared for the teenagers with what was then jazz and scat kind of music,” Colee said.

“That really was his start in radio.”

The first chapter of Colee’s book talks about Channel 9 and Joseph Brechner’s role on taking on the Klu Klux Klan in Orlando. 

Colee said Brechner used his broadcasting platform to show the injustice that was happening at the time.

Colee said Breckner approached Bob Carr, the Mayor of Orlando at the time and helped convince him that Orlando needed to take a leadership role. Carr later peacefully integrated lunch counters, businesses, movie theaters, and hotels.

“It was a tremendous example of the power of a local broadcaster who had the courage to stand up for what was right,” he said.

Colee is giving a presentation about his book at the Orlando Public Library on Wednesday October 4th.


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