Atlanta radio legend James “Alley Pat” Patrick has died at the age of 95.
Patrick began his broadcasting career in 1951 as a disc jockey on WERD, Atlanta’s first black-owned radio station. He joined the staff of WAOK in 1954, and later worked at stations WXAP, WYZE and WQXI-AM.
In the 1980s, he hosted a television show, “Alley Pat’s Place,” on WVEU-TV.
Patrick, who died Thursday, became a member of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2013. That same year, the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame honored Patrick as the recipient of the Founders and Directors Award.
Former V-103 morning host Mike Roberts, a 2013 inductee into the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame, remembers listening to Patrick on WYZE in the early 1980s when he first came to Atlanta. He also got to meet Patrick a few times.
“He was just a very unique announcer,” said Roberts, who now owns a radio station in Macon. “He was a throwback to the 1960s style of radio, very funny, very creative at the same time. He did commercials for local clients like nobody else. He would criticize a client if he didn’t think they were treating customers right. He would praise them, too. He was a character.”
Born Dec. 2, 1919, in the small southwest Georgia town of Montezuma, Patrick called himself a “background person” in the civil rights movement, whether by using his show as an activist’s bullhorn or by springing demonstrators and movement leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Hosea Williams and Andrew Young from jail when he became a bail bondsman.
On his radio show, Patrick needled callers and blithely skewered racial, religious and social sacred cows. Though he was ad-libbing, some say he knew exactly what he was doing.
“Pat would play a simpleton on the air for comedic effect,” director and local filmmaker Tom Roche said. “But when you got to know him, you’d realize he’s quite a citizen of the world. He’d jet up to New York to see plays, he’s been to Africa and he’d go out to L.A. to hang out with John Lee Hooker.”
In 2010, Roche directed the documentary, “Alley Pat: The Music is Recorded.”
The jazz, blues and R&B Patrick played on his shows included the likes of Count Basie, Ray Charles, Joe Turner, Sonny Boy Williamson and Ruth Brown.
“In the ’50s, you had white teenagers who were being told that this race was useless,” Roche said. “But they could tune into the radio in private and hear a Pat Boone song on the white station, and then hear Fats Domino doing the same thing and they could hear for themselves that it was far superior.”
Details on Patrick’s death were not immediately available Friday. Late Thursday night, a notice was posted on Patrick’s Facebook fan page that read: “For the last few years I have managed this Facebook page for Mr. Alley Pat. It is with a heavy heart with his passing that I will now be deleting it after his funeral. @Dexter Porter.”
Funeral arrangements will be announced by Willie A. Watkins Funeral Home.
— Staff writer Rodney Ho contributed to this article.