Tom Joyner’s Dallas

Recognizing the city that made my dreams come true.

My family and I ended up in Dallas the same way most DJs end up in a city. They quit or get fired from a gig and have to move to find work. I first landed in Dallas at KKDA-AM in the early ’70s. Then I left for a job in Chicago and came back for a job at K-104 in the ’80s and have lived in the area ever since.

Dallas played a major role in my biggest professional accomplishments. I earned the nickname “The Fly Jock” when I used to do the morning show here, fly to Chicago to do an afternoon show the same day, and fly back home to Dallas in the evenings. Five days a week for eight years. The Tom Joyner Morning Show launched here. My two sons, Oscar and Thomas Jr., joined me to form Reach Media, the Tom Joyner Foundation, and HBCUsOnline.com here. 

Even though the Dallas I met in the ’70s and ’80s was still catching up with the Civil Rights Movement, I was at the right place at the right time. There were boundaries back then, areas where even monied black people wouldn’t think of trying to buy a house or even visit after sundown, but that was all the more reason I felt I could make a difference. My audience base back then was South Dallas, Oak Cliff, Grand Prairie, and Fort Worth, and I never forgot it. My mentor, the late John H. Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet magazines, told me that if you remain loyal to your base, they will remain loyal to you. He taught me how to “super serve” a community, meaning to get a true understanding of what the people want and need and then provide it for them. It also means finding ways to empower them and make their lives better. To me, in the ’70s, it meant giving black Dallas the music, humor, opportunities, and dignity it deserved. 

Let me give you an example. South Dallas is not nicknamed Sunny South Dallas by coincidence. I came up with the name back in the ’80s because, at the time, the Dallas media rarely had anything uplifting to say about that part of town. Putting it out there that South Dallas was a place where the sun was always shining made us all feel better. 

I feel just as at home in South Dallas today as I did then. I still feel the love whether I’m there for our annual Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day event at the MLK Center or at the State Fair Classic, cheering on Prairie View and Grambling State. 

I like to think I helped show the South Dallas community, by example, the benefits of putting in the work. There has always been a segment of our society that has championed acquiring things without putting much emphasis on working to get and keep what we have. A lot of who you are and what you become is based on being blessed with a good home, good parents, and good values. But I also know hard work plays a major role, too. If I leave an impact on anyone out there listening, I hope it is the importance of striving to do and be your best. It doesn’t happen by waiting for things to fall into your lap. It happens by getting up earlier, staying later, going the extra mile, and never feeling like you’re irreplaceable. 

When I got the opportunity to do a syndicated radio show based here in Dallas, it was the first time I recognized that this would probably be my permanent home. That’s a big deal for a DJ. We built a state-of-the-art studio at ABC Radio Networks. Years later, when we decided to become independent and syndicate our own show, no longer relying on another company to do what we could do ourselves, we moved our Reach Media offices to a different building and built an even better, more state-of-the-art facility known as the Red Velvet Cake Studio. That move was a page straight out of Oprah’s handbook. King World Productions initially owned The Oprah Winfrey Show, but Oprah figured it out, flipped the script, and formed Harpo Studios. That worked out for her, don’t you think? 

I came to Dallas as a DJ, and while that’s still my primary claim to fame, being here has allowed me to stretch my wings more than I imagined possible—and that’s saying a lot. I never would have thought of radio as a family business, yet my sons and I work side by side every day in the Reach Media offices. My wife, Donna Richardson Joyner, conducts much of her business there, too. 

Dallas is where a major part of my life has happened and is still happening. My two sons were educated at Greenhill, my granddaughter and grandson were born here, and the majority of our staff at Reach Media and The Tom Joyner Morning Showhave moved here from other parts of the country. When I look at it from that perspective, Dallas is more than just the place where I ended up. It’s a place where my dreams have come to fruition, and, because of that, a lot of other people have had a chance to make their dreams come true here, too. Pretty fly, huh?

The Tom Joyner Morning Show airs on 105 stations across the country and reaches an audience of 8 million listeners. 

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