WRR is the municipally-owned radio station operated by the City of Dallas and was a pioneer of early radio days. WRR was the first licensed broadcast station in both Texas and the South and was the second broadcast station issued a commercial license in the United States. The story of WRR mirrors the history of radio in America.
City-owned radio stations may not be the norm in most broadcast markets, but WRR is not an average radio station. WRR was the brainchild of inventor Henry “Dad” Garrett, Police and Fire Signal Superintendent for the City of Dallas who began tinkering with radio in his off-duty hours. When a fire destroyed telephone lines and thwarted dispatching efforts in different parts of the city, Garrett saw the potential for instantaneous communication through the new medium of wireless radio transmission. After several years of experimentation, Garrett’s innovation convinced the City of Dallas to purchase equipment to operate a 50-watt station.
Licensed in August 1921, the station was originally housed in the Dallas Fire Department central headquarters, located adjacent to Dallas’ old city hall at 2014 Main Street. In 1923, WRR moved to the Jefferson Hotel, to the Adolphus Hotel in 1925, to the Hilton Hotel in 1931, and to the Southland Life Building's 10th floor in 1934. In 1936-1973, the studio moved the WRR, Police, and Fire Building (currently occupied by the offices of the State Fair of Texas) to Fair Park from 1936-1939 in the WRR, Police, and Fire Building. The station moved to the Centennial Building in 1939 then to the Automobile building, and to its current location in 1973. The station debuted on the FM spectrum in 1948 and continued to broadcast at AM and FM frequencies until the AM station was sold 30 years later.
In tandem with the first commercial broadcasting station in the United States, KDKA, WWR can lay claim to having some of the earliest news, weather, and music programs on American radio, as well as the first disc jockeys. WRR is also self-sustaining. Instead of operating at taxpayer expense, WRR is funded solely by advertising revenue.
Until the departments had their own internal support, WRR supplied and maintained all radio equipment for Police, Fire, Park and Recreation, Water, Public Works, and the former Health Department. At its peak, it furnished dispatching services for Dallas County, Cockrell Hill Police Department, and private ambulance services (in the days before 911). WRR discontinued these adjunct services in 1969.