Joe Young passes away, remembered by friends and family

Joe Young

Joe Young, the founder of the local radio station WYTM, known to some as “The Voice of Fayetteville,” has passed away at the age of 78. Joe passed away on Monday, September 21.

Born on July 15, 1942, Joe graduated from Fayetteville Central High School and received his Bachelor of Science degree and Master’s degree in History from Middle Tennessee State University. While in college, Joe worked for the Geology Department with the State of Tennessee, and later, with the public relations magazine for Genesco. Joe taught at Stratford High School in Nashville upon receiving his Master’s degree. When he returned to Fayetteville, he became Educational Coordinator with the OEO over several counties. Joe returned to teaching at Eighth District School and proudly coached the girls’ basketball team to a county championship. In 1970, Joe built Fayetteville’s first FM radio station, WYTM, and later acquired WEKR-AM station, he has been the owner and general manager of both radio stations since then.

Joe was honored on Thursday, September 24, at a memorial service held at Higgins Funeral Home, wherein he was spoken of fondly by family and friends, beginning with long-time friend and co-worker Ron Wood. “When I first met Joe,” Wood said, “I was doing an ad and he said ‘I kind of like the sound of your voice; if you’d ever want to do radio, call me…’ So I called him and called him and I said I’d like to do it, and things worked out – first thing I knew I had a job at the radio station… and I had zero experience.” Wood went on to recount these early days of getting to know Joe, another “type-A personality” with whom he often he was often contentious.

Wood explained, however, that he came to see the value in his relationship with Joe, realizing that they could mutually benefit and strengthen one another as people. “It leads me to a verse,” Wood said, “that I’ve never used before at a funeral, but I think is so appropriate when I talk today about my friend, Joe Young. Proverbs 27-17 says ‘as iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.’ Joe had that ability – he taught me about radio, but more importantly he a taught me about a small town, because I came from an urban area; I came from a place [with a] large population, where people were objective-driven, not relationship-driven. And Joe helped me to understand that, in a small town, it’s the people that count. He helped me to understand that our job at the radio station was to help the people stay in communication with each other and know what was happening in their community. He believed in this town. He believed in that radio station serving this town, and he made sure that I understood that it was vitally important that we be a public service.”

It was this element of Joe’s personality and character – the emphasis on service to his community and the stewardship of those around him – that would be echoed throughout the service. Joe’s nephews would go on to speak anecdotes that shared this theme, noting that it in hindsight it has become clear that all of his efforts in taking them fishing, hunting, etc. were not about merely showing them the things that he loved to do, but rather to give them experiences of their own, impart knowledge, and equip them to take part in these tasks of their own accord.

While never using the exact phrase, it was clear in the words of those recounting Joe’s memory that he was “The Voice of Fayetteville,” embodying the relationship-driven culture of which his friend Ron Wood spoke, and leaving a timeless endowment of service to the town whom he spoke to and for.