For over 40 years, Black talk radio has played a pivotal role in shaping the dialogue in the African-American community. It has been the eyes, ears and mouthpiece for some of the nation’s most meaningful periods of change — from the civil rights era to the election of the nation’s first African-American president.
Philadelphia — and WURD Radio, LLC specifically — has been at the forefront of creating its own unique imprint on this important medium. In 2002, Walter P. Lomax Jr. M.D. purchased 900AM-WURD, providing the resources that would allow Philadelphia to keep an independent, African American-owned radio station on the airwaves. Since that time, WURD has become, not just the only Black talk radio station in the City of Philadelphia, but the only such entity in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
This year, the station’s line-up was rocked by the death of veteran journalist Fatimah Ali, who hosted the popular mid-morning show, “The Real Deal.” After several weeks of guest hosts, Stephanie Renée (songstress, songwriter and self-described “VibeMistress”) was selected to be a permanent talk show host. Music fans are quite familiar with Renée’s voice, which has been featured on several major label commercial recordings, including “Who Is Jill Scott” and Patti LaBelle’s “When A Woman Loves.” Within the span of two months, “The Mid-Morning Mojo” has launched Renée as a media voice to be reckoned with.
“One of the things that I am very thankful of is being the only female voice that is consistent five days a week in the line-up — I don’t feel any pressure to be anything besides myself,” said Renée during a rare moment of downtime. “There is a certain level of ‘Mama-Bearness’ that I naturally have, and so being able to bring that kind of awareness or sensibility to subjects like education or the problem of violence in our city, to be able to look for stories that appeal to that side of me and to share that with the audience, brings a different kind of voice than we have in any other slot during our line-up during the week. I appreciate the opportunity to be able to bring that consistently to the listeners, and they’ve reacted very positively to it.”
This month, WURD Radio released a free mobile app for both iPhones and Androids so listeners could have easy access to live on-air programming wherever they go. The WURD App screen includes an icon to access the 900AM website, as well as an email icon that links directly to the phone user’s email system to send feedback or troubleshooting issues to the station’s business office. With the recent launch of new programming — including new hosts Renée and Nick Taliaferro — plus the Night Al show, the new app makes it easier to listen to the station on mobile devices across the entire broadcast day.
“The expansion of our ‘On Air, Online and In Community’ presence is further positioning 900AM as the destination station of choice in the tri-state area,” said Sara Lomax Reese, president and general manager, WURD Radio, LLC. “Strengthening our digital assets and presence in the marketplace is an important component of our overall growth strategy.”
Stephanie Renée hosts “The Mid-Morning Mojo” on WURD 900AM, Monday–Friday from 10 a.m. to noon. The WURD app can be downloaded through mobile app store providers.
Sonia Sanchez, long Philadelphia’s unofficial poet laureate, now holds the official title, appointed on Thursday by Mayor Michael Nutter — as the city’s first.
True to her role as well-known peace advocate and her vocation as a teacher, she immediately gave the entire city an assignment.
“My first assignment is for everyone in this room … for one week, do not twist and curl your tongues and say anything negative about anyone,” said Sanchez as she accepted the appointment. “For one week do not say anything negative. It’s hard to do.”
She issued the instruction to everyone in the city as a first step to ending violence.
“We’re taught to destroy people with our tongues,” she said. “When we teach our children to destroy each other with their tongues, then it’s an easy step to destroy them with their hands and guns and knives. We must initiate peace.”
As the city’s poet laureate, Sanchez will take part in Nutter’s inauguration on Monday, but more than that, for the next two years, she will physically represent the city’s commitment to the arts and culture, said the mayor.
“Ms. Sanchez exemplifies the role a great poet can play in helping define a city and helping its citizens discover beauty,” he said.
She will host poetry and spoken word events at City Hall, the Free Library and schools across the city. In addition, she will be instrumental in choosing and mentoring a youth poet laureate.
Nutter decided to make poet laureate an official city post — something he will finalize with an executive order in January — after hearing Sanchez at a spoken word program at the School of the Future last year.
The encounter caused him to reflect on the city’s cultural and artistic history — and decide Philadelphia needed an official ambassador for the arts.
“It increasingly did not make sense that this city would not have a poet laureate,” he said.
In an unconventional twist, during the ceremony at City Hall, Sanchez had Nutter put his hand on her heart — while she too put her hand on his chest — in an exercise intended to instill a sense of peace and drive home the humanity of every individual.
Its something she encouraged everyone to do.
“There is no violence in the heartbeat,” she said. “Let us listen to each other’s heartbeats.”
Sanchez is the author of more than 18 books and the recipient of numerous awards including the Langston Hughes Poetry Award in 1999, the Harper Lee Award in 2004 and Pew Fellowship for the Arts in 1992 and 1993. A professor, she has lectured at more than 500 colleges and universities, and is a sponsor of the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom.
Gambling center proposal includes hotel, restaurant
PHL Local Gaming LLC will hold a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 29 to announce details of a significant investment by Dr. Walter Lomax and family.
PHL Local Gaming is one of six bidders for the available casino license in Philadelphia. Last November, the group proposed a $367 million casino and hotel on 23 acres on either side of the 3300 block of South Front Street.
Lomax is the founder of the Lomax Companies, a private investment firm based in Chalfont, Pa, which focuses on venture capital and real estate.
PHL Local Gaming represents the interests of Joseph Procacci, founder and chief executive of Procacci Brothers Sales Corp., a large tomato supplier.
Details of the Lomax family investment will be made during a press conference held at 12:30 p.m. today at Procacci Brothers Sales Corp, 3333 South Front Street.
The proposed casino would extend from Front to Third streets on Pattison Avenue.
The gaming hall would be called Casino Revolution and feature 2,000 slot machines, 85 table games, a 250-room hotel, restaurants and an entertainment arena.
In addition to the three sites in South Philadelphia, the six groups are bidding for the city’s second casino license including two sites in Center City and one on the Delaware River waterfront.
Dr. Walter Lomax, founder of The Lomax Companies, is tapping into the casino industry.
The Lomax family has acquired nine percent of PHL Local Gaming, LLC’s total equity. PHL Local Gaming, led by Joseph G. Procacci, is one of six bidders vying for the available casino management license in Philadelphia.
The Lomax family, along with other investors, will have the opportunity to make equity investments in PHL Local Gaming up to a total of $40 million.
“I’ve been told there are three important things when looking at a casino – the operations, the site and the management. This particular operation passed all three of the tests. It’s a platinum location, with platinum management and a platinum operation,” Lomax said during a press conference held Tuesday afternoon.
“We could have been doing a lot of things with our time and our investments, but we look at this as a tremendous opportunity for Philadelphia.”
As a part of the investment, Lomax will become a member of PHL Local Gaming’s board of directors. His children are also investing in the casino project.
“We are very excited to have the Lomax family with us as we move forward to the next level of what’s expected to be a very competitive bidding process,” said Procacci, who heads Procacci Brothers., one of the largest wholesale produce companies in North America.
“They are another business-focused family with strong South Philadelphia roots and they will play an important role. In addition to capital they bring proven business acumen and an exceptional, local and national network of potential supporters. They are a very reputable family and I’m proud to be associated with them.”
If the partners are successful with their bid, the $367 million casino project would sit on 25 acres at Front and Pattison streets in South Philadelphia.
The gaming hall would be called Casino Revolution and feature 2,000 slot machines, 85 table games, a 250-room hotel, restaurants and an entertainment arena. The site is located in close proximity to I-95 and I-76.
“There’s great momentum and upside potential for expansion in the local gaming market and we believe that PHL Local Gaming and Casino Revolution’s concept is novel, it’s special,” said Bennett Lomax, CEO of Lomax Companies.
“We think that our site can expand in ways that our competitors can’t, due to the sheer size of our footprint. We think that the access points are tremendous. We think that we are the least intrusive of all the gaming projects in terms of neighborhood interference.”
PHL Local Gaming tapped Merit Management Group to operate Casino Revolution. CEO Joe Canfora and his leadership team have more than 25 years of creating, opening and managing premier casinos across the U.S.
According to projections, the project could have a significant economic impact. According to PHL Local Gaming officials, the casino is projected to generate $137.7 million in annual city and state taxes and fees and more than 2,000 jobs in Philadelphia. There would be about 950 construction jobs at an average wage of $52,800. The average, full-time casino employee would make an annual salary of $31,800.
PHL Local Gaming officials say they are strongly committed to including minority participation in its opportunities for jobs, vendors and suppliers.
“It’s a commitment that is going to go from the top down and we want our workforce, our supply chain and our construction people to mirror Philadelphia. What sets us apart from other organizations is that we started with ownership,” said John F. O’Riordan, an attorney for PHL Local Gaming.
The business deal between Lomax and Procacci represents a local partnership between two local titans.
Lomax began his medical career as a solo practioner in the same South Philadelphia neighborhood where he lived as a child. He has developed various ventures throughout the years including Lomax Health Systems and Correctional Healthcare Solutions, Inc. and Healthcare Management Alternatives, Inc. Today he serves as chairman of the Lomax Companies, a private investment firm based in Chalfont, Pa, which focuses on venture capital and real estate.
Procacci, a native of Camden, N.J., and his brother, Michael, established Procacci Brothers Sales Corp. in 1948 as a tomato repacking and wholesale businesses. Today the company is one the largest wholesale produce companies in North America, operating seven buildings, 640,000 square feet of refrigeration on 32 acres in South Philadelphia.
Last November, the six bidders submitted their proposals to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. The extensive vetting process will take nine to 12 months before a licensing decision is made.
“We’ll be spending months doing background checks, collecting input and evidence before the board’s even in a position to render a position,” said Doug Harbach, spokesperson for the PGCB.
The PGCB will hold a public meeting February 12 at 9 a.m. at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. During the meeting, the six bidders will make public presentations about the respective proposals.
PHL Local Gaming, LLC, one of six bidders for the available casino license in the city, has announced that it is funding a special services district in South Philadelphia.
The proposed district would service an area that would extend north to Synder Avenue, south to Pattison Avenue, east to Seventh Street and West to I-95. PHL Local Gaming’s proposed gaming facility, Casino Revolution, would be situated within the district, at Front and Pattison Streets.
PHL Local Gaming has begun the application process for establishing the district by reaching out to the Philadelphia Commerce Department and to its district Councilman Kenyatta Johnson.
The company has also conducted meetings with members of the South Philadelphia-based Whitman Council and with members of the adjacent Stadium Special Services District.
As a part of the process, PHL would convene businesses and residents to support the initiative, with the objective of launching the new district over the next several months, prior to any licensing decision by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
“In many cases, after winning licensing bids, casino ownership groups have established plans to assist their surrounding communities. Under Joe Procacci and Walter Lomax, two owners with South Philadelphia roots, we at PHL Local Gaming have decided that, even before any decision is made by the Gaming Board, we would help to initiate an effort to assist our neighbors in identifying their most urgent community needs and would work together with them and other businesses, to achieve enhanced economic growth and transformative improvements,” John O’ Riordan, vice president, Community Relations, PHL Local Gaming said in a press release.
PHL Local Gaming’s announcement took place Tuesday at the Burke Playground, where PHL officials were joined by community residents in planting a dozen evergreens.
“We’re looking forward to working with the people at PHL Local Gaming and with other business and community leaders in this area to establish the new Special Services District,” said Rich Lazer, longtime South Philadelphia resident and Burke Playground member.
“It’s long overdue for this community to have its own citywide identity and to establish its own goals for neighborhood improvement, economic opportunties and quality of life.”
If it wins the available casino management license, PHL Local Gaming plans to open a $428 million 250-room and gaming facility. Casino Revolution would offer 2,400 slots, a steak house, a coffee/espresso bar, an Italian restaurant, 300-seat buffet, a 156-seat cafe and a covered 1,600 car garage.
PHL Local Gaming officials said it has the ability to open a casino six months prior to any of the other six bidders due to the proposed facility’s location as part of the 25-acre Procacci Brothers Sales complex.
The proposed casino would generate 600 early jobs and $51.9 million in city and state revenues in the process.
Dr. Walter P. Lomax, Jr. was a noted physician, businessman and philanthropist.
Lomax died on Oct. 10, 2013 after a brief illness. He was 81.
“It is with deep sorrow that we announce the passing of Walter P. Lomax Jr., M.D. A physician, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Dr. Lomax was also a loving husband and father,” the Lomax family said in a statement.
“At this time, plans for a funeral and memorial service for Dr. Lomax have not been finalized, so we ask for your patience with those details. That information will be shared as soon as it is available.
Dr. Lomax is so loved by so many. The family asks that everyone celebrate his legacy and remember him fondly for the extraordinary person he was. Mrs. Lomax and the entire Lomax family appreciate the condolences and outpouring of sympathy from the community.”
Lomax was the founder of The Lomax Companies, the corporate umbrella for real estate investment firm Lomax Real Estate Partners; technology firms Prime Image and MyArtistDNA and WURD Radio.
He chaired the Lomax Family Foundation, which provides funding for nonprofit organizations and programs that promote art, health, education and culture in the African American community. Earlier this year, Lomax became an investor in PHL Local Gaming, LLC, which is vying for a casino license in Philadelphia.
Local politicians and business leaders are mourning the loss of Lomax.
Mayor Michael Nutter issued a statement on his passing.
“I’ve known Dr. Walter Lomax for more than 30 years. He was an historical figure in Philadelphia and a skilled, compassionate doctor who improved the lives and health of many people. In addition to his work in the health care field, Dr. Lomax was a great businessman, philanthropist, and supporter of many worthy causes: minority business development, educational attainment, and artistic and cultural institutions. He was well respected by many people for his tireless efforts,” Nutter said.
“I had the pleasure of traveling with Dr. Lomax to West Africa in 1985 for business. He was a great friend and an inspiration in my work. His wife, Beverly, and their children represent the finest in community engagement and service to others. Dr. Lomax set a very high example for us all to follow, and I will miss him deeply.”
City Council President Darryl Clarke said he was deeply saddened to learn of Lomax’s passing.
“Dr. Lomax was a trailblazer who showed many in the African-American business community what was possible with a bit of ingenuity and a lot of hard work. Dr. Lomax did not just show us how to succeed — he demonstrated the importance of giving back to the community. His endeavors in health care, minority business development and philanthropy have paved many a path for younger generations,” Clarke said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon.
“The timing of Dr. Lomax’s passing on the 10-year anniversary of 900 AM WURD, the voice of the Black community in Philadelphia, is particularly tragic. Like so many, I was looking forward to helping the WURD family celebrate this important milestone later today. Instead, I join Dr. Lomax’s wife, children, and all who knew and were inspired by him in mourning.”
Congressman Chaka Fattah also issued a statement on Lomax’s passing.
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my dear friend, Walter Lomax. I have known Dr. Lomax since I was a child, when he served as my family’s physician and throughout his extraordinary career as a businessman, philanthropist and radio station owner. He gave so much of his time and talent to our community, but his most cherished responsibility was as a husband and a father,” Fattah said.
“I was with Walter, his wife and children last Saturday, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Lomax Companies’ leadership of WURD in Philadelphia and I am grateful for the opportunity to spend time with him, given today’s news.”
“He will be missed by so many whose lives he touched and I join with the Philadelphia community in sending my thoughts and prayers to the Lomax family.”
A. Bruce Crawley, founder of Millennium 3 Management, regarded Lomax as a friend and mentor.
“People in the wider community throughout the Philadelphia region will probably never fully appreciate all that Dr. Walter Lomax accomplished in what turned out to be an all too brief life. He made this community more healthy, more economically viable [and] more fair on every level,” Crawley told the Tribune.
Crawley recalled working with Lomax back when he ran Healthcare Management Alternatives, Inc., (HMA), which provided health care to Medicaid recipients in Philadelphia.
“I was always in awe that an African-American doctor from South Philadelphia led a company that had so much impact on so the lives of people in this city and in this region and that he was able to run it in such a masterful way,” Crawley said.
Lomax formerly served on the board of the African American Chamber of Commerce. Crawley said that Lomax’s business acumen was regarded as a model for others within the African-American business community. All of Lomax’s children are involved in the family business.
“One of the big problems that people often talk about is the difficultly that entrepreneurs have in putting together succession plans and incorporating others into their vision. He seemed to have no problem whatsoever in creating what is probably going to be an orderly succession in his family business,” Crawley said.
Lomax began his medical career as a physician who ran a private practice in South Philadelphia for 32 years. His practice grew from a single physician office to Lomax Medical Associates, a multi-site group practice which consisted of more than 20 physicians. The practice focused on providing high quality care in traditionally underserved areas.
In 1982, he established Lomax Health System, Inc. a management company concentrating exclusively on health care. Two years later, the company won a medical services contract to recruit physicians and physician assistants to supplement the city of Philadelphia’s staff in the prison system. In 1990, Correctional Healthcare Solution, Inc. was incorporated to specialize in the management and delivery of health services to correctional facilities. When it was sold in October 2000, CHS was providing health care in 60 correctional facilities in 16 states.
In 1989, LHS joined forces with a firm in Virginia to form HMA which won a Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare contract to provide health care to Medicaid recipients in South and West Philadelphia. After the contract was awarded, Lomax was required to sell his five-site group practice and in September 1990 he retired as a practicing physician.
The success of HMA would lead to the company garnering HMO licenses in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. AmeriChoice was formed as a holding company for the three state HMOs in 1995. The company was sold to United Health Group Company in 2002.
In 1994, Lomax purchased the plantation where his great-grandmother was enslaved in King William, Va. Over the years he has acquired more than 700 acres of the original plantation.
A 10th anniversary celebration of the Lomax Companies’ ownership of WURD was held Thursday evening at the African American Museum in Philadelphia. The event served to celebrate WURD’s anniversary milestone and Lomax’s life and legacy.
A celebration of the life of Walter P. Lomax Jr., M.D. will be held on Nov. 2 at 11 a.m. at the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall, 300 Broad St. (Broad and Spruce streets).
He died on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013 after a debilitating illness. He was 81.
Lomax was a physician, businessman and philanthropist.
He was the founder of The Lomax Companies, the corporate umbrella for real estate investment firm Lomax Real Estate Partners; technology firms Prime Image and MyArtistDNA and WURD Radio.
Lomax chaired the Lomax Family Foundation which provides funding for nonprofit organizations and programs that promote art, health, education and culture in the African-American community.
The death of noted Philadelphia physician, businessman and philanthropist Dr. Walter Lomax is a profound loss to the Philadelphia-area community.
Lomax, a South Philadelphia native and Bucks County resident, died Thursday morning at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania after what his family described as a brief but debilitating illness. He was 81.
He grew his small medical practice in South Philadelphia into a large company involved in health care, real estate, technology and broadcasting.
He was the founder of the The Lomax Companies, the corporate umbrella for real estate investment firm Lomax Real Estate Partners; technology firms Prime Image and MyArtistDNA and WURD Radio.
Lomax and his wife Beverly purchased 900AM-WURD 10 years ago.
On Thursday, Oct 10 the day of his death, WURD went on with its scheduled celebration to honor its 10th anniversary at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.
Honorees Cody Anderson, Kernie Anderson and the Rev. Louise Williams Bishop, all expressed fond remembrances of Lomax and condolences to the Lomax family, which was not in attendance.
Several speakers at the event said Lomax, whose picture was at the podium, would have wanted WURD to carry on with the celebration and continue to the build the station.
Attendees packed all four levels at the standing-room-only event, a strong public expression of the high regard many in the African-American community have for Lomax and the radio station he founded.
WURD is the only African-American talk radio station in Pennsylvania. Lomax’s daughter, Sara Lomax-Reese, serves as president of the station.
“Dr. Lomax gave a voice to his vision of Black media empowerment,” said Denise James, parliamentarian of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists in a written statement. “The impact of his legacy will reverberate for years in the lives of WURD broadcasters, listeners and those who aspire to be media owners.”
Dr. Lomax touched the lives of many through his medical practice, his many businesses and his philanthropy. A successful businessman with a strong community conscious, he will be deeply missed.
Mourners gathered at the Kimmel Center to say goodbye to Walter P. Lomax, Jr. during a memorial service on Saturday Nov. 2.
The audience which consisted of friends, family members and members of the public who have been touched by Lomax’s life, filled the auditorium as speakers shared their experiences with the late doctor and entrepreneur. Lomax passed away on Oct. 10. He was 81-years old.
Cody Anderson, former WDAS general manager and Philadelphia radio veteran, kept the audience laughing as he remarked on his relationship with Lomax.
“There are so many people from the WURD 900 family who would have loved to have had this opportunity, who loved and respected Dr. Lomax,” said Anderson.
Anderson said that Lomax listened to WURD 900 constantly and formed relationships with some of the callers of the talk show.
“Most did not realize that he was as much a fan of theirs as they were a fan of his,” said Anderson.
The crowd erupted into laughter when Anderson explained that Lomax was the only person to ever fire him.
“I don’t have the time to tell you all that he did for me or what he meant to me, he was the only person in the world to fire me … he made me know that it was for the best,” Anderson said.
Anderson shared the time in which he spoke with Lomax about purchasing the WURD 900AM radio station. Anderson said that Lomax had second thoughts about acquiring the station. Anderson called him right away once he found this out.
“You can’t give everyone money but you can give everyone a voice,” Anderson said he told Lomax. Lomax purchased the company which became Philadelphia’s only Black-owned radio station.
Jazz musician John Blake whose trio performed during the ceremony, recalled the earlier days of his career where he lived with his parents after college and wrestled with the thought of leaving home and getting a job while simultaneously pursuing his music career. It was Dr. Lomax who encouraged him to pursue his dreams and gave him fatherly advice which helped guide him along the way.
Philadelphia’s poet laureate, Sonia Sanchez moved the crowed with a reading of a poem which she recited in honor of Lomax and for whom she dedicated to the Lomax family.
During the reading, Sanchez was moved to tears and at one point had to pause to collect herself as she read the poem in tribute.
WURD radio personality Albert Butler credits Lomax with saving his life.
“I was basically unemployed and on the street for seven months, unable to find a new [radio] home,” said Butler who was then laid off from WHAT radio after it changed its radio format.
“WURD was making some changes in their format and the things they were doing and so they reached out to me,” said Butler. Butler, who has now been with the station since 2007, says that until Kernie Anderson and Lomax reached out to him, he doubted if he would ever find a position in radio again.
The service also included performances by various choirs and dance companies who performed in Lomax’s honor.