COLUMBIA - “The Front Porch for Muletown, U.S.A. (WKRM) and of Southern Middle Tennessee" (WKOM) is how Sam Delk Kennedy, Jr. (Delk) envisions the Kennedy Broadcasting Company. Kennedy and his wife, Mary Susan, took operational control of the Stations March 6, 2020. The plan is to keep many of the traditions that have powered the success of the company’s radio stations, WKRM (1340 AM and 103.7 FM) and WKOM (101.7 FM), while reimagining their formats with local content including local talk radio, local music and programming and local sports.
WKRM and WKOM are headquartered in a charming circa 1902 home at 315 West 7th Street in Columbia. Kennedy hopes the centrally located venue will become a gathering spot for locals to stop in and share stories and ideas about people and events from every corner of Southern Middle Tennessee.
While some programming changes are planned, Kennedy said he has every intention of continuing and enhancing the Station's proud tradition as a community partner in progress. He said a largely local format will allow the opportunity to air community voices and focus on local happenings.
“I want the station involved in all aspects of community life. We are taking a hyperlocal approach,” Kennedy effused. “For example, I would like to feature local musical talent. I want everyone to feel welcome to be a part of our on-air conversation, including local athletes and coaches, weather spotters, representatives from the arts and business communities and politicians.”
After obtaining an undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University and a law degree from the University of Tennessee, Kennedy pursued a legal career that included long stints in the District Attorney’s office and the U.S. Attorney’s office. Kennedy’s family has more than a century of media experience in Middle Tennessee, publishing the Columbia Daily Herald from 1904 to 1983. Since then, Kennedy Newspaper Company, under the leadership of his late parents, Sam and Betty Kennedy, and on whose board Kennedy has served throughout his adult life, has run multiple small print media outlets throughout Middle Tennessee. He remains the owner of the Lawrence County Advocate.
Dr. Mary Susan Kennedy, born and raised in Williamson County, Tennessee, is a graduate of Vanderbilt University. After graduation she earned her M.B.A in Business Administration from Southern Methodist University and later her Ph.D. in Business Administration from the University of Memphis. She has been a Professor of Business at Columbia State Community College for 39 years. She has retired and come to work full time at WKRM and WKOM.
Delk and Mary Susan live on a farm in the Glendale Community. Their son Sam Kennedy, III and his wife, Rachel Vest Kennedy, and their children, Margaret Berry, Samuel, and Ridley Kennedy, live in western Maury County, and the Kennedys' daughter, Berry, lives in Nashville.
Kennedy plans to suspend his law practice and devote himself full time to the radio stations. His excitement over the new venture is palpable. When asked why he has chosen this “second act,” his grin was wide. “First, at my age, this is my third or fourth act! Second, local media and Maury County are in my blood. It’s a perfect fit, and I look forward to seeing where this next chapter takes me.”
About the Finney/Kennedy journalism legacy in Middle Tennessee - James I. Finney was a social commentator, historian, public servant, editor and publisher in the early 20th Century. His editorials against the anti-evolution law in 1925 are still considered models of clear, concise comment on one of the most emotional issues in the state's history. He served as publisher of the Tennessean, commuting from the family farm in Culleoka. He later became editor and later publisher of the Columbia Daily Herald for 19 years before turning the reins over to his son, John. At that time, in 1926, he returned to the Tennessean and became a tireless advocate for public education. He wrote a history of the Tennessee Public School System and later served on the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees. As editor of the Herald, John W. Finney took up his father’s mantle and long advocated for a community college in Columbia. The library at Columbia State is named in his honor. Both Finneys have been inducted into the Tennessee Newspaper Hall of Fame. After Mr. Finney’s death in 1965, his son-in-law, Sam Kennedy, and his daughter, Betty, took over leadership of the paper until its sale in 1984. During his long career in print journalism, Kennedy rose to prominence as a respected commentator and an advocate for transparency in government. In September 2016 (just before his death in 2018), Mr. Kennedy was recognized for his lifelong passion for government openness and was inducted as the 16th national honoree in the State Open Government Hall of Fame based in Washington, D.C. Delk Kennedy is the great grandson, grandson, and son respectively, of these three men.