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Joseph "Tex" Gathings oral history recordings

 Collection 0581-MMC

This is a collection of oral histories recorded in 2022 about Joseph "Tex" Gathings who was a prominent radio and television broadcaster in Washington, D.C. from the late 1930s until he retired in 1991. Gathings is best known for producing the Teenarama dance party show. Individual interview materials include audio recordings, and transcripts.


  • May 18 - August 5, 2022

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

This collection contains restricted material (interview with Charles Hall). Please check the series and folder listings for additional information.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the special collections reading room staff.


6 Folders : 6 Word transcripts

157.6 Megabytes : MP3 audio recordings (6 interviews)

Content Description

This is a collection of oral histories about Joseph "Tex" Gathings, who was a prominent radio and television broadcaster in Washington, D.C. and is best known for producing the Teenarama dance party show, the first Black televised dance program in the U.S.

The collection consists of six interviews with a former student, colleagues, a documentary historian, and others who pursued careers in the radio and television industry.

This is an initiative begun in 2022 by Gathings' cousin Julie Nelson. The materials are comprised of transcripts and audio recordings of these oral histories. Transcripts are available in physical and digital form, and audio recordings are available as digital recordings.

Biographical / Historical

Mr. Joseph Gouvenor “Tex” Gathings was a prominent broadcaster in the Washington, D.C. area. After starting at WOOK-AM in the 1930s, he later became director of production for the nation’s first Black television dance program entitled Teenarama on WOOK-TV.

Gathings was born May 24, 1928 at Freedman Hospital in Washington, DC. His parents, Dr. Joseph G. Gathings, II and Elizabeth Parr both graduated from Howard University. Tex Gathings attended Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania, and although he did not complete his university degree, he began a career in radio. He took classes at Howard University and quickly became the emcee for the Howard Players, a distinguished drama club, with his rich baritone voice. This experience made him a popular entertainer on WOOK-AM radio airways in the 1930s where he was disc jockey for the program Jazz after Midnight. His popularity brought him into the company of many great artists of that time including Quincy Jones, Dinah Washington, Pearl Bailey, Lena Horne, Nina Simone, Tina Turner, Carmen McCray and Duke Ellington. He was also part-time manager of the Five Keys and emceed events at the Howard Theater.

While at WOOK-AM Radio, Gathings successfully negotiated with station owner Richard Eaton for a budget for the first Black televised dance program named Teenarama for WOOK-TV. He and Cliff Hollander became the program directors, and Gathings also took on the role of daily newscaster. Since they had a modest budget, Gathings sold advertisement space to local businesses to bring additional revenue to the project. Filmed live six days a week, Teenarama became known as the American Bandstand for the Black community, and eventually a national dance craze. The production paved the way for programs like SoulTrain and networks like BET. Gathings remained with WOOK Television until 1972.

From 1972 until his retirement in 1991, he served as instructor, professor, Chair of the Department of Mass Media, Visual and Performing Arts, and Assistant Dean of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts at the University of the District of Columbia. Among his many contributions, he was instrumental in the development of the University's well-respected Jazz Archives. Gathings's distinguished career in broadcasting was honored by his peers in 2007 when he was inducted into the Gold Circle of the National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He passed away in Maryland in 2020.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

This collection contains born-digital materials. If you would like to access these materials, please contact us prior to your visit as items may require specialized software for access.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These interviews were donated by Julie Nelson, Joseph "Tex" Gathings' cousin, to the University of Maryland in 2022. Release forms were signed in 2022. Please check the folder listings for additional information.

Related Materials

Related collections at University of Maryland:

Sam Ford WJLA videotapes Sam Ford was a reporter and announcer for various TV network affiliates in Minnesota and Washington, D.C., and was one of the forty-four founding members of the National Association of Black Journalists in Washington, D.C. in 1975.

Maryland Public Television records The MPT program archive includes productions by and for Maryland’s Black communities, including Afro-American Perspectives and Our Street.

David L. Crippens papers Crippens has had an extensive public broadcasting career as a producer, writer, newsperson, director, stage manager and vice president.

Related collection at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum: Interview of Joseph "Tex" Gathings.

Processing Information

Oral history materials were downloaded from Box (cloud storage) in a virtual machine running BitCurator 4.4.1, scanned for viruses with ClamTk 6.07, copied to local storage with grsync 1.3.0, and bagged and uploaded to Academic Preservation Trust with DART 2.0.22. A backup copy of the bag is retained in nearline local storage.

Guide to the Joseph "Tex" Gathings oral history recordings
Jennifer Gathings Eidson
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742