Cy N. Bahakel, owner of a network of radio stations including WDEF and WDOD in Chattanooga, died Thursday at his home in Charlotte, N.C.
Mr. Bahakel bought WDOD AM & FM from Interstate Life and Accident Insurance Company in 1963. He bought WDEF AM & FM from the estate of Roy H. Park in 1997.
WDOD is the oldest station in Chattanooga - going on the air in 1925. WDEF is the second oldest station - going on the air Dec. 20, 1940.
Both stations have their original call letters. Both stations have had only three owners.
WDOD’s first owners were Earl Winger and Norman Thomas. Interstate was the second owner.
Joe Engel and some other investors put WDEF on the air. They sold out to Park in the early 60s.
It was in 1947 that Cy N. Bahakel began a successful broadcast career that would span 50 years and reach millions of viewers and listeners and enable him to fulfill a dream of serving mankind through the miracle of broadcasting.
Born April 12, 1919 in Birmingham, Ala., Cy Bahakel graduated from the University of Alabama and served in the U.S. Army in San Antonio, Tex. After a leg injury that confined him temporarily to Brooks General Hospital, he remained in San Antonio to serve as a newscaster.
Broadcasting would never be far from his love. After short stints at WBRC-Birmingham and WJRD in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Bahakel abandoned a three-month law practice and made a move to Kosciusko, Miss., where he bought his first radio station with a partner, Mims Boswell, whom he later bought out.
From 1947 to today, Bahakel has continued a growth pattern for his broadcast magnate, which spans the Rockies to the Atlantic Coast with radio and television. He recently sold his cable division to invest more heavily in television. He was a true pioneer in the broadcast industry with an uncanny knack for foreseeing the coming trends in the ever-changing landscape of
Broadcasting and being the first on the scene to take advantage of those opportunities, including UHF television and the digital landscape of the 21st Century.
In addition to his successful broadcast career, Mr. Bahakel served as a deacon and Sunday School teacher in Roanoke, Va., and was a much sought after speaker, having gained his skill from the University of Alabama debate team where he became a distinguished orator.
From 1972-1976 he served in the North Carolina Senate for two terms. He was unopposed for his third term when he chose not to run and to return to his first love, broadcasting.
Mr. Bahakel, along with a group of savvy investors, began the Bank of Mecklenburg in the 1980's which today has merged with RBC Centura.
He was also a founding partner of the Charlotte Hornets, and through his vision and contribution, made it possible for pro sports to begin a successful stint in Charlotte.
Cy Bahakel had an impressive career as a public servant outside of politics and broadcasting where he has served on many boards, including Boy Scouts of America and the Presbyterian Hospital Association.
It was Beverly Boyd Bahakel, whom he met and married in Kosciusko, Miss., who was his greatest achievement and asset. He would later credit her for the vision of his key growth, especially the move of the company headquarters, to the growing city of Charlotte in 1963. It was Charlotte which was the springboard for the dynamic growth witnessed by Bahakel Communications today.
He will be remembered for these remarkable achievements and for the loving family he left behind.
In addition to his wife, Beverly Boyd Bahakel, Cy Bahakel is survived by his children, Beverly Poston and her husband, Steve, Suzanne Pittenger and her husband, Robert, Merribeth Crouch, Cy N. Bahakel, Jr., Amy Wheeler and her husband, Marc, and Stephen Bahakel.
Also surviving are his brother, Izas Bahakel and his wife, Renee; and his grandchildren, Robert Pittenger, Jr. and his wife, Jodi, Natalie Kilts and her husband, James, Amy Elizabeth Pittenger, John David Crouch and Grace Pittenger.
The family would like to thank the following people for their loving support: primary caregivers Shawn Gaddy, John Keefe, Paul McInnis, Steve Robinson, and Michael Selph; and officers Danny Anthony, Andy Oberer, Carolynn Pierce, Chris Rush and Sean Taylor.
A service to celebrate the life of Cy N. Bahakel will be held at 2 p.m. Monday at Calvary Church, 5801 Pineville-Matthew Road in Charlotte.
Memorials may be made to the donor's choice.
Arrangements are in the care of Hankins & Whittington Dilworth Chapel, 1111 East Blvd. (www.hankinsandwhittington.com).