Dr William Banks
Dr William Banks Was born on May 6 1903 on a share cropper’s farm in Geneva Kentucky to Richard Banks and Clara Banks who were both tenant farmers.
In June 1922 He graduated from Lincoln Institute of Kentucky and relocated to Detroit Michigan where he secured a job at the Doge main Plant. He continued in School and graduated in 1929 Detroit college of law.
He established a criminal law firm which he later closed down during the depression and invested his money in property instead. He was always caring about the welfare of his community and wanted it to be more of a healthy and prosperous one. By being so involved in this he supported in the election for the Frank Murphy who was elected into the Supreme Court in 1930.
He had a driven passion and attended the Detroit Seminary in 1948 graduated and was ordained a Baptist Minister in 1949 and helped to establish small learning centers .
Dr. William V Banks established the Detroit based International Free and Accepted Modern Mason in 1969. He led the Masons to purchase a network station which was named WGPR Channel 62 the abbreviated station full meaning was WHERE GOD’S PRESENCE RADIATES. This came all into existence with the help of President Richard Nixon and President Ford. And two Congressmen for the FCC approval, and for the treaty agreement with Canada to allow the airwaves of the station to be broadcast. Both presidents felt that the African American Black s should be allowed this opportunity. The first President and General Manager of WGPR-FM which became Detroit’s First black radio station) and WGPR-TV.
The station in 1975 generated more than 1 million in annual revenues. The television Channel went live on Sept 29, 1975 becoming the First and only Black owned and operated television station in the United States of America. The Success came from a popular show named the Scene a dance program.
William Banks, center, dark suit, was instrumental in opening the nation’s first African American-owned television station in Detroit in 1975. Photograph courtesy of Walter p. Reuther library, Wayne state university
Dr. William V. Banks died August 24, 1985 at the age of 82. . At the funeral service, then-mayor of Detroit, Coleman Young, spoke of Banks’s lifelong commitment to Detroit, its citizens, and its future. “He did more than talk about this,” the Detroit News quoted Young as saying. “He acted on it, he invested in it, and he had the kind of faith that kept this city moving.”
The problems that came along with is death was the subsequent court battles between Banks’s widow and the Black Masons severed the connection between her and the, organizations he founded. After her husband’s passing Ivy Banks planned to take over of the of the Masonic group, but was legally fought by a group of 46 members. Both she and daughter Tenicia Gregory resigned from WGPR and the Masons her husband founded; less than a decade later the Masons sold the station to CBS, who was looking to replace an affiliate in the Detroit market. Several African American business people challenged the reported $24 million sale of the station and the transfer of the FCC license on grounds of the station’s historical significance to the African American community.
Honorary Doctorates from Shaw University
Key to the city of Detroit From Mayor Coleman Young
Outstanding Achievement Award, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People;
Commendation, Detroit Common Council; Business Services Award, Booker T. Washington Businessmen’s Association.
Sources: Detroit News, August 30,, 1985 American FCC Registry, Detroit Free Press, August 27, 1985 Detroit news various media web archives.