Thomas B. Ingram, 60, WCAO engineer, personality

May 06, 2001|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Thomas B. Ingram, a pioneer of Baltimore radio broadcasting, died Tuesday of cancer at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care in Towson. He was 80 and had moved from Woodlawn to Oak Crest Village in Parkville in 1997.

A radio engineer at WITH and WCAO, he also read poetry for the midnight program "Nocturne," popular in the 1940s, which was broadcast from the Parkway Theatre's stage.

Family members said that in his 40 years in local radio he enjoyed setting up live remote broadcasts, such as radio coverage of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico each spring and Baltimore Colts legend Johnny Unitas' final games at Memorial Stadium. Mr. Ingram retired in 1979.

Born in Savannah, Ga., he moved to Baltimore when he was 2 and lived in Glen Burnie.

At age 13, he built his first radio in the family garage. He studied accounting at the Baltimore College of Commerce, but decided that occupation was too dull. He left to follow what family members called his "technical passion" - broadcasting. Against his father's wishes, he enrolled in the Commercial Radio Institute and joined the staff of WFMD in Frederick as an engineer and singer with the station's house orchestra.

He moved to Baltimore and took a job with AM station WITH. He helped set up the equipment for its first broadcast March 4, 1941, at offices on Lexington Street in downtown Baltimore.

About a year later, he moved to station WCAO, then an affiliate of the Columbia Broadcasting System, which broadcast news and light classical music. He later recalled an accomplishment - moving the studio and technical equipment to Baltimore County from its studio at Charles and Chase streets, across from the Belvedere Hotel.

"We moved the control room operation from downtown Baltimore to the transmitter building in Pikesville ... all in one night, using most of the same equipment and without going off the air. There was no interruption to the program," he wrote for a newsletter.

He also was on duty in the 1950s on the day the station changed from its conservative format to all rock 'n' roll.

"That was a shock to Baltimore," recalled his wife of 49 years, the former Margaret Fischer, a retired supervisor with the federal Health Care Financing Administration.

Members of the Unitarian Church of Baltimore, they were recognized for their advocacy of the Baltimore gay and lesbian community and received a commendation from the church in 1997 for fighting sexual-orientation discrimination.

A memorial service will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Oak Crest Village Chapel, 8800 Walther Blvd.

Mr. Ingram also is survived by a son, Bruce W. Ingram of Parkville; a daughter, Susan C. Ingram of Randallstown; and a brother, Samuel D. Ingram of Reno, Nev.

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