John H. DeWitt Jr.

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John D. DeWitt Jr.
Born February 20, 1906
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
Died January 25, 1999(1999-01-25) (aged 92)
Alma mater Vanderbilt University
Spouse(s) Ann Elise Martin
Sykes Barbour Hewitt Neas
Children 1 son (John Hibbett DeWitt III), 1 daughter (Cary Claiborne DeWitt)
Parent(s) John Hibbett DeWitt

John H. DeWitt Jr. (February 20, 1906 – January 25, 1999) was an American pioneer in radio broadcasting, radar astronomy and photometry. He observed the first successful reception of radio echoes off the moon on January 10, 1946 as part of Project Diana.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

John Hibbett DeWitt Jr. was born February 20, 1906 in Nashville, Tennessee, the son of judge John Hibbett DeWitt. He displayed an early interest in electrical engineering, specifically radio technology. He became an amateur radio operator in 1921[3] and used call sign N4CBC.[4] In 1924, he helped direct the design and installation of a 100-watt radio transmitter at First Baptist Church in Nashville, which would become the area's first commercial radio station.[5]

DeWitt earned a bachelor's degree in engineering degree at Vanderbilt University in 1928.[citation needed]


DeWitt began work at Bell Laboratories in Washington, D.C. the next year. He returned to Nashville in 1932 to become chief engineer for WSM.

After the outbreak of the Second World War, he returned to Washington as a lieutenant colonel in the United States Army to work at the United States Army Signal Corps' Evans Signal Laboratories on radar. He was appointed director of the Evans Laboratories in late 1943, where he headed Project Diana.[6]

He retired from the Army in 1946 and worked for a year as a consultant to a Clear-channel station group, which was seeking approval for greater transmitter power. He became president of WSM in 1947, retiring in 1968.

Personal life and death[edit]

DeWitt was married twice and had two children. With first wife Ann Elise Martin DeWitt, he had a son, John Hibbett DeWitt III; with second wife Sykes Barbour Hewitt Neas, he had a daughter, Cary Claiborne DeWitt.[7]

DeWitt died January 25, 1999, 53 years to the day after making radio history.[8]



  1. ^ "Diana". TIME. 1946-02-04. Retrieved 2007-11-27. 
  2. ^ Gould, Jack (1946-01-28). "Moon Is Late for Demonstration Of How It Is Reached by Radar". New York Times. p. 21. Retrieved 2007-11-27. 
  3. ^ Curtis, Anthony R. (2002-02-21). "Space&Beyond: Moonbounce Advances the State of the Radio Art". American Radio Relay League, Inc. Archived from the original on 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2007-11-27. 
  4. ^ Famous Hams and ex-Hams Archived 2014-05-19 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Sparks, Stephen F. (2007-05-11). "Nashville's first licensed radio station at First Baptist Nashville". The Tennessean. Retrieved 2007-11-27. [dead link]
  6. ^ Kraus, John (Summer 1980). "Diana Waves Back: The First Moon Bounce". Cosmic Search. p. 27. Retrieved 2007-11-27. 
  7. ^ DeWitt Family Information
  8. ^ "Moonbounce Pioneer John DeWitt Jr, N4CBC, SK". American Radio Relay League, Inc. 1999-02-02. Archived from the original on October 1, 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-27. 
  9. ^ "Army Awards DeWitt Legion of Merit Medal - Conceived, Prepared First Drawing of Radar Set to Locate Enemy Mortars by Fire". The Tennessean. 1946-01-26. 
  10. ^ NAB Engineering Achievement Award Winners
  11. ^ Engineering Alumni - Vanderbilt University
  12. ^ "1995 Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame". Broadcasting & Cable. 1995-11-06. The 1995 Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame inductees include radio and television industry members who have made significant contributions, from early contributors to present day personalities. Earle C. Anthony, Martin Block, Sid Caesar and Merlin Hall Aylesworth are among those honored, as well as Imogene Coca, John H. DeWitt Jr., Geraldine Laybourne, Peter Jennings, Dinah Shore and Don Cornelius. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Craig Havighurst, Air Castle of the South: WSM and the Making of Music City (2007, ISBN 978-0-252-03257-8)

External links[edit]