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Bernard Mayes papers

 Collection 0079-MMC-NPBA

Anthony Bernard Duncan Mayes (1929-2014) was involved in broadcasting over two decades as an executive, board member, consultant and reporter for NPR, PBS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the BBC, Radio New Zealand, the Australian and Canadian broadcasting corporations and public radio stations across the United States. Mayes is also known for his work as a university teacher and administrator, author, and gay rights activist, and is credited with creating the first suicide prevention hotline in the United States.

Beginning in 1958, Mayes worked as a journalist for the BBC, filing feature stories from the West Coast. He also worked as an announcer at Berkeley's KPFA and KXKX in San Francisco. In 1968, he became the first general manager of KQED-FM, then a co-founder and first working chairman of National Public Radio when it was incorporated in 1970. He left the board of National Public Radio in 1972 but remained involved with public radio as a consultant to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting throughout the 1970s.

The Bernard Mayes papers cover the period 1912-2001 and document Mayes’ broadcasting career at KQED (San Francisco, CA), National Public Radio (NPR), and at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). The collection also includes Mayes' collection of articles and papers documenting the history of public broadcasting.


  • 1912-2001
  • Majority of material found within 1977-1986

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.


1.75 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Bernard Mayes Papers covers the years 1912 to 2001 and contain some undated material. The bulk of the collection concern the years 1969 to 1985. The materials document Mayes' years with KQED San Francisco, his role in the founding of National Public Radio, and his work with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's Radio Advisory Service. Also included in the collection are Bernard Mayes' personal collection of documents concerning public broadcasting history and articles about radio and television. Types of materials include memorandums, correspondence, annual reports, personal notes, articles, congressional documents, minutes, and pamphlets.


Bernard Duncan Mayes was born in London, England on October 10, 1929. After graduating from Cambridge University with a BA (1952) and MA (1954) in classical language and history, he taught high school education. He became an ordained priest in the Church of England in 1958 and moved to the United States.

Mayes' broadcasting career began in 1958 when he became a broadcast correspondent for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), a post he held until 1971. After working as an announcer for San Francisco stations KPFA-FM (1964) and KXKX-FM (1966), he became KQED-FM's general manager in 1967. From 1973 to 1975, Mayes served as executive vice president of KQED-TV. While working at KQED, Mayes was also one of the founding directors of National Public Radio (NPR), serving as chairman of the board of directors from 1970 to 1972. During his tenure, he helped establish the organization and standards of NPR.

While living in San Francisco, Mayes founded the first suicide prevention hotline in California in 1962, which became the model for suicide prevention and crisis counselling centers throughout the United States. He was recognized with numerous awards for his suicide prevention work, including lifetime achievement awards from San Francisco Suicide Prevention and the Serpentine Society at University of Virginia, as well as the Jefferson Award for Public Service in 2010.

Mayes also did a significant amount of work for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). There, he helped to develop the Radio Advisory Service in 1971, and served as senior consultant until 1980. The Radio Advisory Service was implemented to assist public radio and television stations nationwide struggling with funding or other various problems. Following the founding of the Service, Mayes became an advisor, consulting various stations around the country. Finally, from 1971 to 1981, he was a broadcast correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio New Zealand and the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC).

In 1984, Mayes returned to the academic realm as Chairman of the Department of Rhetoric and Communication Studies at the University of Virginia. During his time at the university, Mayes developed the Media Studies Program and in 1991 was named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He was seen as a valuable asset to the University community who fought homophobia, advanced gay rights, and promoted inclusion for LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and staff. At UVA he also co-founded the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual Faculty, Staff and Graduate Student Association, known as UVA Pride, and helped form the Serpentine Society for LGBTQ+ alumni at UVA. He received the Harrison Award for mentoring and a special award from the University's secret '7' Society.

In addition to his radio, television, and academic accomplishments, Mayes has recorded various dramatizations of famous works, such as J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Homer's Odyssey. He received an award from the National Endowment for the Arts for his dramatization of Thomas Jefferson's life.

Mayes' 2001 autobiography Escaping God's Closet: The Revelations of a Queer Priest discusses his life as a priest, journalist, university teacher and administrator, and gay rights activist, as well as his decision to renounce the priesthood and religion. His book was awarded with the Lambda Literary Award from the Lambda Literary Foundation in 2003.

Mayes died in 2014 at age 85.


Organized as six series:

Series 1
Public Broadcasting History
Series 2
Series 3
Series 4
National Public Radio (NPR)
Series 5
Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)
Series 6
Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) Radio Station Advisory Service

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The Bernard Mayes Papers was donated to the National Public Broadcasting Archives, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries by Bernard Mayes in February of 2007.

Processing Information

Documents were placed in acid-free folders which were then put into acid-free boxes.

Guide to the Bernard Mayes papers
Processed by Ann Quinlin
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

  • 2008-09-11: EAD revised by Karen E. King.
  • 2017-11-12: Finding aid reviewed and edited by Rebecca Thayer.
  • 2022-06-09: Lindsay Oliver updated the biographical note to include information about Mayes' suicide prevention work and gay rights activism; 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