Welcome to the Northwest Georgia Amateur Radio Club

The Northwest Georgia Amateur Radio Club is an organization dedicated to the advancement and promotion of amateur radio.   This year the Northwest Georgia Amateur Radio Club is 85 years old. The W4VO repeater has been serving Northwest Georgia for over 42 years.

  A Brief History of Amateur Radio and the NGARC as related by Ed Byars, WB4FGM (Silent Key)

Although Amateur Radio operators existed in northwest Georgia for many years prior to 1931, it was then that the Northwest Georgia Amateur Radio Club (NGARC) officially came into existence.

In this area of Georgia, Amateur Radio can be traced back to 1906. Two of the better known "hams" in the early days were Josh Tumblin, W4CAN of Cave Spring, who operated a station in 1906 and Pop Schliestett, W4RS of Cedartown, who joined him in 1911.

In those days an operator had to build his equipment or enlist the help of other amateurs. These early radio pioneers were busy inventing the Amateur Radio hobby as it is known today, and without them, the NWGARC would not be celebrating its' 70th anniversary.

In the mid 1920s WSB Radio wanted to be the first commercial broadcast station in Georgia. When the company was informed that their new transmitter would not be ready on time, WSB was afraid that WGST Radio could become the first commercial station to air. At that time Gordon Hight, Sr. (4BQ) owned and operated a very nice amateur station and WSB contacted Hight about using his transmitter. Hight agreed and WSB successfully became the first commercial radio station to broadcast in Georgia. This took place in 1927.

(Pictures of Hight's ham shack and transmitter are on display at the Rome Area History Museum. The museum is located at 305 Broad Street, Rome, GA.)

By the time the 1930s rolled around, there were several commercial broadcasting stations. With their knowledge of radio, many existing hams became engineers for these new stations.

Because of the intense interest and fascination with radio by these early amateur operators, Amateur Radio as we know it today was born. Hams loved to contact other amateur stations using their home brew equipment. At first everyone used Morse code on "Spark Gap Transmitters," which were very primitive. With the invention of the vacuum tube, AM phone became a way to actually communicate by voice.

In the spring of 1931 a picnic was held at John Sessler's home in Rome. Amateurs from all over the northwest Georgia region attended. At that time it was decided that the amateurs needed some type of organization to support their hobby. The Northwest Georgia Amateur Radio Club was formed. After John Sessler passed away, the club asked that his call sign, W4VO, be assigned permanently to them. The FCC agree and W4VO has been the call sign ever since.

The club grew steadily with members joining from not only NW Georgia, but also Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. What started as a simple picnic became a Hamfest. It was a place to go and see the people that you met over the Amateur Radio bands. People referred to it as an "eyeball QSO party".

As the 1930s drew to a close, with war cries in the air and the onset of WWII, the ham bands were closed down. This did not stop the radio operators. The Hamfest, or picnic, continued as best it could. Some Hams went to war, never to return. Many Hams went to war and returned with new knowledge gained in the military. By the end of WWII and the Korean Conflict, thousands of radio operators had been trained in communications by the military. Men and women both returned home with radio fever and this added fuel to the Amateur Radio hobby.

By the 1960s the "home brew" pioneers that created the hobby of ham radio were slowly fading away. With new technology and interest, amateurs no longer had to build all of their own equipment and it became easier to join the ranks of ham radio.

In 1967 a new breed of amateurs came along with the VHF and two-meter FM Repeater groups. In the Rome area, it started with Al Mitchell (K4OAG), Al Squires (K4CKS) and other new comers such as myself, Ed Byars (WB4FGM), managing to place a working two-meter repeater on Mt. Alto. The Northwest Georgia Repeater Association was established that year. Since most of the members were also member of the NGARC, the two clubs decided to merge and W4VO also became the call sign of the repeater.

Decades have passed and a new millennium is here. The old-time hams are all gone now. They are referred to as "silent keys," but their legacy lingers on -- reminding us of the origins of Amateur Radio operators.

This year the NGARC is 83 years old and not many radio clubs can claim that honor. The W4VO repeater has been serving NW Georgia for over 40 years. Let us hope that the Amateur Radio operators who follow will carry on the spirit of NGARC and give the club the respect and pride that it has earned.