Cathy Hughes is a dynamic media pioneer who demonstrates the power of one – one woman, one vision, one company – Urban One, formerly known as Radio One. As Founder and Chairperson of Urban One, Inc., the largest African-American-owned and operated broadcast company in the nation, Hughes’ unprecedented career has spawned a multi-media conglomerate that generates original content across the spectrums of radio, television, and digital media. Her humble beginnings in Omaha, Nebraska, were not a deterrent to her success but rather part of the catalyst that fueled her ambition to empower African Americans with information and to tell stories from their perspective.
Hughes began her radio career in her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, at KOWH (AM), a station owned by African-American professionals. In 1971, she moved to Washington, D.C., and became a lecturer in the newly established School of Communications at Howard University. During her tenure, she served as General Sales Manager at WHUR, Howard University Radio, increasing the station’s revenue from $250,000 to $3 million in her first year. She also became the first woman Vice President and General Manager of a station in the nation’s capital and created the format known as the “Quiet Storm,” which revolutionized urban radio and was aired on over 480 stations nationwide. In 1980, Hughes purchased her first radio station, WOL-AM, in Washington D.C. and pioneered another innovative format – “24-Hour Talk from a Black Perspective.” With the theme, “Information is Power,” she served as the station’s morning show host for 11 years.
In 1999, Hughes became the first African-American woman to chair a publicly held corporation, following the sale of more than seven million shares of common stock to the public. Since then, she and her son and business partner Alfred Liggins III have grown Urban One into a multi-media company that is an urban radio market leader with 56 stations comprising hip hop, R&B, gospel, and talk radio formats. Urban One is the first African-American company in radio history to dominate several major markets simultaneously and is the first woman-owned radio station to rank number one in any major market. Its success has earned Hughes hundreds of prestigious awards and recognitions, including the ADColor Lifetime Achievement Award, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Chair’s Phoenix Award, the NAACP Chairman’s Award, the Giant of Broadcasting Award, the Uncommon Height of Excellence Award, the Essence Women Shaping the World Award, the Ida B. Wells Living Legacy Award, and induction into the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame.
Hughes’ philanthropic works are also on par with her success in the business arena. Her passion for education is evident in her efforts to continue her family’s work and legacy at The Piney Woods School in Piney Woods, Mississippi. She is a staunch supporter of the school, which was established by her grandfather in 1909 and is the largest of only four African-American boarding schools in the country. In addition, she is a champion for the hungry and homeless, a mentor to countless women, and an advocate dedicated to empowering minority communities.
Related Speakers View all
First Black Woman to Serve as CEO of A Fortune 500 C...
Talk Radio Host, KBLA Talk 1580; Activist, Health En...
Senior Editor at Fortune Magazine & "RaceAhead" Col...
Tonya M. Evans
Professor & Global Leader in Tech, IP, Crypto, & Inn...
Journalist, Writer & Producer
CEO of LRY Media Group
Founder & CEO of Blavity Inc.
Wendy Osefo, PhD
Professor | Media Personality | Political Commentato...
Founder of TransTech Social Enterprises & Actress in...
Founder & CEO of Ascend Ventures & Black Innovation ...
Sheila C. Johnson
Entrepreneur, CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts, ...
CEO of Oprah Winfrey Network, Presidential Medal of ...
Three-time Olympian, Olympic Gold Medalist, Healthy ...
Author of Best-Selling Biography ON HER OWN GROUND: ...
Global Media & Digital Transformation Expert; Prior ...
Dr. Kimberly Harden
Diversity and Inclusion Speaker, Founder & CEO of Ha...
American Radio Personality
Brown STEM Girl Founder; Youngest Person of Color Ac...
Award-Winning Actor, Businesswoman & Social Activist
CEO of Hard Work No Excuses; Creator of the Do Work ...