WPFW is the fifth station of the Pacifica radio network, founded in 1949 by maverick broadcaster Lewis Hill.
WPFW began in 1977, in a very modest facility-a single room, divided into four segments. One section served as the on-air studio, the others were the administrative office, newsroom, and a place for volunteers to prepare their programs. WPFW's Blues man Nap Turner recalls the day he first came to the station. He was surprised to find that such a "big sound" was coming out of a corner where the turntables rested on crates. Some twenty-five years later, support from WPFW listeners has enabled the station to have modern facilities, with separate studios for broadcast, program production, and for volunteers to put together shows.
From the beginning, WPFW has been the voice for alternative programming in the Washington metropolitan area. In essence, the station started out, and continues, challenging the norm and passionately serving the under-served of our community.
WPFW has been and continues to be a unique community resource dedicated to aiding the community in a way that only radio can. In addition, we remain free of corporate sponsorship. Thus, listener support is crucial.
Since its inception, volunteerism has been at the heart of WPFW. Our own Von Martin, a volunteer, was the first voice to sign the station on a quarter of a century ago. Von began his first broadcast with Duke Ellington's "Take the ‘A' Train" and we've been the "Jazz Messenger" ever since. To this very day, we have volunteers who have been with WPFW for twenty or more years. Our volunteers are from all backgrounds and cultures, speak numerous languages, and come from all over the world. They come to WPFW and they stay because of their love for the station, its listeners and the craft of broadcasting. Through volunteerism, WPFW provides neighbors, friends, and family members opportunities to learn broadcasting and to gain a better understanding of the global community in which we live.