Friday, September 8, 2017

R.I.P.: Delaware Broadcaster Thomas H Draper

Thomas H Draper
Thomas H. Draper, who built WBOC in Salisbury, Md., into an influential independently owned station with a strong local news presence, died Sept. 7 from injuries sustained in a bicycle accident near his home in Delaware.

He was 76, according to TV NewsCheck.

Draper was struck by a pick-up truck Thursday morning while out for his daily bicycle ride.  According to Delaware State Police, after calling 911, the driver stayed with Draper until help arrived.  No charges have been filed in the accident.  Draper was initially taken to Bayhealth Milford Memorial Hospital and then airlifted to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore where he underwent surgery Thursday afternoon but did not survive the night.

“There are no words to express the profound grief the WBOC family feels at this time,” says Craig Jahelka, president of Draper Media. “Tom was a broadcast pioneer, who said often those of us at WBOC have a moral obligation to serve the people of Delmarva.  Our thoughts and prayers are now are with his family.”

Jahelka says Draper had just celebrated his 50th anniversary in broadcasting on Sunday, Sept. 3.  His broadcasting career began with the purchase of his first radio station WTHD, which bore his initials as its call letters, in 1967. Five years later Draper signed on WAFL-FM in Milford, Del.

Draper's broadcasting career would take a big turn in the late 1970s when WBOC-TV's then-owner, the A.S. Abel Co. — which also owned the Sun papers in Baltimore — put the station up for sale. But Draper was outbid twice.

Draper and his group of investors were asked to make a third bid for WBOC and its two radio stations. After the deal was done, Draper sold the two radio stations to focus on TV. Draper would go on to buy and sell other TV stations in Kansas and Texas. But WBOC always remained his first love.

Draper expanded his CBS affiliate to include Fox and Antenna TV on subchannels. He launched a separate digital division, and in 2015 got back to his roots with the purchase of a 50,000 watt radio station, WBOC-FM.  Draper was poised to announce the launch of Delmarva’s newest television station, Telemundo Delmarva.

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