(Apr. 12, 1905-Dec 17, 1986). Martin Risser Williams was born in Cambridge City, Indiana, and built an amateur radio station there while still in high school. After completing radio school in Valparaiso, he worked for RCA in Chicago and Cleveland and, in 1929, installed the first two-way radio in a commercial aircraft.
Williams returned to Indiana in 1930 as chief engineer of radio station WFBM. While there he built the city’s first two-way radio mobile news and remote units, and he did the original engineering for the Indiana State Police communication network. After leaving WFBM in 1940, he became a consulting engineer and helped put a number of Indiana radio stations on the air.
In March 1957, Williams founded WFMS (95.5 FM), the first permanent commercial FM station in Indianapolis. In December 1963, the outlet became the first in Indianapolis to broadcast continuously in stereo. Because Williams disputed repeated claims that WFMS had a small audience, he went on the air in 1971 and asked listeners to send him a dollar to show their support for the station. More than 500 people sent almost $700.
After rejecting a number of earlier offers for WFMS, Williams sold the station in 1972 to a Pennsylvania company, Susquehanna Broadcasting, for $605,000 (over $3.8 million in 2020). Two years later, he became the principal owner and manager of WIUC, Winchester, Indiana. He retired from that station in 1979 but continued consulting work. In 1982, he became a member of the Indiana Broadcast Pioneers’ Hall of Fame.
MICHAEL SPILLMAN (1994)
Revised June 2021