“Uncle Jim” Patterson and WBTV Sign-On, 1949

Doug Mayes at an early WBTV broadcast. Image from BT Memories.On July 15, 1949, announcer Jim Patterson signed on Charlotte’s WBTV, the first television station in the Carolinas, two months ahead of WFMY in Greensboro, which began airing programming in September 1949.

At the time, both WBTV and WFMY were owned by Jefferson Standard Broadcasting Company, an affiliate of the life insurance company of the same name. The company filed an application for a Charlotte license with the Federal Communications Commission in December 1947. A construction permit arrived two months later and work began on an antenna atop Spencer Mountain in Gaston County that would broadcast the signal. At the time there were only 12 television stations in the nation, and most were in larger cities.

Test patterns began running on Channel 3 on July 1, 1949. Station owners set up a viewing party in the Charlotte Armory and thousands packed the venue for three days beginning on July 15. Less than 1,000 families in the area owned television sets at the time, but that count was up to 8,500 by year’s end.

Originally housed in the Wilder Building on Tryon Street, the current site of the Marriott Hotel, WBTV moved to its present location in 1955.

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