Wilbur Jeffery Jerman was born in Silverton Oregon on June 11, 1901 to (Sam) William & Rose Jerman. At an early age Alfred Adams, owner of the Silverton Opera House had stirred Wilbur's interest in radio. In 1915 the family moved to Portland and Wilbur attended Benson Polytechnic School. With World War I under way by 1917 it's believed Wilbur was inducted into the Army. By 1920 Wilbur had returned to Portland, working for Stubbs Electric Co. as a clerk. He had never formally been schooled in radio electronics, he just picked it up. By 1921 Wilbur was one of the firms key radio specialists. He helped install the temporary "Portland Telegram" newspaper station, as part of Oregon's first scheduled live entertainment broadcasts.
When Osmon B. Stubbs decided it was time his firm entered broadcasting in 1922, it was Wilbur Jerman who designed and assembled KQY. This was Oregon's fourth commercial station. He also became KQY's Chief Operator & Engineer. During this defining year in radio broadcasting, where stations sprang up like no other period, Mr. Jerman designed and assembled CHCQ Calgary, Alberta. (First audio station in Western Canada). KDYQ Portland. (Oregon's 7th commercial audio station). KFBM Astoria's first audio station. KFCD Salem's first audio station. KFEC Portland (Oregon's 16th commercial audio station). Plus Wilbur found time to marry Edna L.
Next, Mr. Jerman launched his own station in 1925. KFWV broadcast from Wilbur & Edna's Mount Tabor home. In 1926 Wilbur Jerman, Inc. became first in the Northwest to obtain an Experimental Television License, bearing the call sign 7XAO. By then KFWV had moved to the Sovereign Hotel. The following year call letters changed to KWJJ, refecting his full name initials and the station moved to the Broadway Theatre. In 1928 7XAO became W7XAO. It is believed between 1929-30 early television experimentation did take place, using the Broadway Theatre projection machines for pictures and KWJJ broadcasting the accompanying sound. The image would have been received on a three inch screen. There is no documentation of this however, as of this writing. In 1935 Mr. Jerman married Alice M.
Mr. Jerman re-married five years later Jessie J. This marriage lasted until his death. 53 years. In 1946 Mr. Jerman purchased property on Healy Heights for his new FM station. KPRA, Oregon's third FM station began the following year and in 1949 became KWJJ-FM. At age 50 he began looking for a buyer for his now AM only station. KWJJ was sold in 1952 and Wilbur Jerman retired with only half his lifetime spent. What an exciting life those first 50 years must have been. He helped in pioneering virtually everything in commercial broadcasting we still use today. He died on March 17, 2004. None of us in broadcasting knew until last Sunday.
A Special Thanks to Ron Kramer for E-Mailing me about Mr. Jerman's passing. Ron was also kind enough to share information from Mr. Jerman's early life, which I had not researched. Ron is in the process of writing a book on the history of Oregon Radio & Television. We were both saddened to hear of his death and disappointed as radio historian's that no obituary was published, as far as we know. I'm sure if there had been, we could have passed along more history making moment's in this remarkable man's life.