(Oct. 21, 1895-May 16, 1972). Born in Shelbyville, Indiana, Watson received his amateur radio license in 1914. He joined the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company in 1917 as a ship radio operator and, during World War I, managed radio traffic in New York City harbor for troop transports. In 1925, Watson was listed as “Radio Engineer” in the program for the First Radio Exposition in Indianapolis.

In 1925, Watson began one of the first radio stations in Indianapolis, WBBZ, which he operated from his home on Iowa Street. This station quickly went out of business due to financial problems. On November 29, 1926, he and his brother Carl introduced station WKBF, broadcasting from the Ford Motor Company showroom on East Washington Street. WKBF was one of the first Indianapolis radio stations to join a major network broadcast when it aired the Dempsey-Tunney fight over NBC in 1927.

Watson and others incorporated WKBF as the Indianapolis Broadcasting Company in 1929; not long afterward, the station’s call letters were changed to Wire. In 1936, Indianapolis Broadcasting sold the station to a group headed by Eugene C. Pulliam.

During World War II, Watson developed a means of “phone-patching” that provided a radio link to the country’s telephone system and allowed servicemen overseas to talk to their families at home. Watson also served as an instructor for the U.S. Navy at Harvard and for the Naval Radio School in New York City. In his later years, he owned and operated a motel in Kokomo, Indiana.

Revised April 2021

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