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Thad Holt papers

 Collection 0031-MMC-LAB

Thad Holt (1898-1984) was a radio and television executive in Alabama and a figure in the New Deal's emergency agencies in the 1930s. Holt headed the Works Project Administration in Alabama under the Roosevelt administration from 1932 to 1936 and served in Washington as assistant administrator of the WPA in 1936 and 1937. In 1956 he served as a special consultant on overseas television projects for the United States Information Agency's Voice of America.

A pioneer Alabama broadcaster, Holt and his business partner Edward L. Norton leased Birmingham's WAPI-AM from a local group of businessmen (incorporated as "The Voice of Alabama") from 1937 to 1953. During that time, Holt and Norton established FM radio and television for the first time in the state; they launched WAFM (later called WAPI-FM and now WJOX-FM) in 1947 and the first television station in Alabama, WAFM-TV (now WVTM-TV) in 1949.

The Alabama Educational Television Commission was created in 1953, and Holt and Norton were employed to supervise the planning and construction of the first and any subsequent non-commercial TV stations. When the first two stations began broadcasting in 1955, Alabama became the nation's first state with an educational television network. Holt was an early proponent of using satellites for transmission of educational programs.

The collection documents Holt's career in Alabama broadcasting from 1930 to 1980 in educational television, cable television, and satellite broadcasting. It includes business records, business, and personal correspondence, financial records, and other documents.


  • 1930-1980
  • Majority of material found within 1930-1970

Use and Access to Collection

The collection is open for research use.

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 reading room staff.


10.50 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Thad Holt papers span from 1930 to 1980, and includes business records, business and personal correspondence, financial records and other documents relating to Mr. Holt's involvement with WAPI, WAPI-FM, the TeleVision Corporation, educational television, Alabama Educational Television, community antenna television, and materials concerning satellite and video communications that span the years from approximately 1936 to 1982.


Thad Holt spent a lifetime in the field of broadcasting. Early in his career Holt started WAPI, the first radio station in Alabama. With the advent of FM radio, he expanded his operations to include FM broadcasts -- the first in Alabama to do so. The arrival of television in the late forties led Holt to develop his broadcasting activities.

He became a leader in educational television, and later fought for the rights of cable companies to establish operations in the area. Holt quickly perceived the application of satellites for long distance communication -- non-military as well as military -- and became an early proponent of using satellites for transmission of educational programs.

Holt's lifetime accomplishments, his connections with important figures of the early 20th century--such as Harry Hopkins--and others in the field of broadcasting--particularly Edward R. Murrow--forms an important chapter in American broadcasting.


The collection is organized into four series.

  1. Series 1: WAPI Radio Materials
  2. Series 2: Radio and Television
  3. Series 3: Educational Television
  4. Series 4: Holt Biographical Material

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

Samuel C.O. Holt, son of Thad Holt, donated the Thad Holt papers to the Library of American Broadcasting in April and June of 1996.

Related Material

The papers of Holt's son Samuel C. O. Holt are also located in the National Public Broadcasting Archives.

Separated Material

Books, Pamphlets, Brochures, and Reports separated from Series 4: Holt Biographical Materials

  1. Report: "An Analysis of Senator John W. Bricker's Reporter Entitled: 'The Network Monopoly'." (1956)
  2. Report: "Before the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce of the United States Senate." (1956)
  3. Columbia Broadcasting System, eds. Crisis: A Report from the Columbia Broadcasting System, New York: Columbia Broadcasting, Inc., 1940
  4. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., eds. CBS News on D-Day, New York: Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 1945
  5. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., eds.The Sound of Your Life, New York: Columbia Broadcasting, Inc., 1950
  6. Fortune, J. Douglas,Amateur Radio: A Beginners Guide, Chicago: Thordarson Electric Manufacturing Co., 1940
  7. National Broadcasting Company, eds.The Fourth Crime, New York: National Broadcasting Company, 1944
  8. State Department of Education, eds. Handbook for Teachers, Inschool Television Course Catalog, 1975-1976, Montgomery, Alabama: Alabama State Department of Education, 1975
  9. Washington State University. The First Amendment and Broadcasting Press Freedoms and Broadcast Journalism, Washington State University: The Edward R. Murrow Symposium, 1978
  10. Winfield, Betty Houchin & Louis B. DeFleurThe Edward R. Murrow Heritage, Challenge for the Future, Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1986

Processing Information

Documents were placed in acid-free folders which were then put into acid-free boxes. Some newsclippings in bad shape were copied onto acid-free paper.

Guide to the Thad Holt papers
Processed by Jonathan Powell, October 1996.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2009-05-04: EAD markup checked and verified using JEdit software by Karen E. King.
  • 2012-08-20: Tagged with relevant subject headings- Chuck Howell.
  • 2017-10-31: Finding aid reviewed and edited by Rebecca Thayer.
  • 2018-12-20: Finding aid reviewed and minor edits made by Duncan Griffin.
  • 2021-07-23: Jim Baxter re-wrote the collection abstract.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

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