|Washington Post photo|
Mr. McCain had worked in radio for more than 15 years when WOL (1450 AM) hired him away from the Washington AM station WRC in 1981. Today, WOL is owned by Radio One, a media company that serves a largely African American and urban market.
He quickly became one of the station’s flagship personalities and a daily presence known to listeners of his call-in show as “Uncle Bernie.” In an interview, Radio One founder Cathy Hughes described him as “a black version of Mister Rogers.”
“It was a learned voice, but he was sort of down-home,” said Denise Rolark Barnes, the publisher of the Washington Informer, an African American, woman-owned newspaper. “He made people comfortable calling and expressing their opinions.”
Mr. McCain was most associated with the afternoon drive-time but had also done morning drive-time and midday shows over the years.
He was, by all accounts, opinionated. But he distinguished himself from many on-air personalities in radio by not being rude to callers, even when conversation touched on such sensitive issues as economic empowerment, education, political engagement and parenting.