Cathy Hughes, born Catherine Elizabeth Woods in Omaha, Nebraska on April 22, 1947, is an African-American entrepreneur, radio and television personality and business executive. Hughes founded the media company Radio One and later expanded into TV One, the company went public in 1998, making Hughes the first and only African-American female to head a publicly traded corporation at the time. In the 1970s, Hughes created the urban radio format called "The Quiet Storm" on Howard University's radio station (WHUR) with its very first disc jockey she chose, the late Melvin Lindsay (who was a Howard University student, at the time).
Cathy Hughes was born to Helen Jones Woods, a trombonist with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, and William Alfred Woods, who was the first African-American to earn an accounting degree from Creighton University (a university which Hughes herself would later attend). The family lived in the Logan Fontenelle Housing Projects while Hughes' father attended college.
After working for KOWH, Hughes was offered a job as a lecturer at the School of Communications at Howard University in Washington, D.C. In 1973, she became General Sales Manager of the university's radio station, WHUR-FM, increasing station revenue from $250,000 to $3 million in her first year. In 1975, Hughes 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 founded Radio One, and with then-husband Dewey Hughes, bought AM radio station WOL 1450 in Washington, D.C. After the previous employees had destroyed the facility,she faced financial difficulties and subsequently lost her home and moved with her young son to live at the station. Her fortunes began to change when she revamped the R&B station to a 24-hour talk radio format with the theme, “Information is Power.” Hughes served as the stations Morning Show Host for 11 years. WOL is still the most listened to talk radio station in the nation’s capital.
Radio One went on to own 70 radio stations in nine major markets in the U.S. In 1999, Radio One became a publicly traded company, listed under the NASDAQ stock exchange. As of 2007, Hughes's son, Alfred Liggins, III, serves as CEO and president of Radio One, and Hughes as chairperson. Hughes is also a minority owner of BET industries.
In January 2004, Radio One launched TV One, a national cable and satellite television network which bills itself as the "lifestyle and entertainment network for African-American adults." Hughes interviews prominent personalities, usually in the entertainment industry, for the network's talk program TV One on One.
- "Owning the airwaves - Cathy Hughes buys radio stations for African-American programming." Essence. Jones, C. October 1998.
- The Reeler (July 9, 2007): "Talking the Talk - Is the biopic over? Talk to Me's Don Cheadle on life, liberties and pursuing a hero", by S.T. VanAirsdale