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Know your community and be part of it, says radio Hall of Famer Dick Bott

Isabella Fernandez, a communications student at College of the Ozarks, stands with her great-grandfather Dick Bott and Rich Bott after introducing Dick upon his acceptance into the Missouri Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Photo courtesy of Bott Radio Network/Flickr

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (BP) — Dick Bott has always believed in the importance of community and the power of radio to deliver those connections, particularly when it comes to sharing the Gospel.

The Bott Radio Network began in 1962 when he and his wife, Sherley, purchased a country music station in Kansas City, Mo. and promptly changed it to Christian programming.

Bott’s wife, Sherley, has been crucial to the work of the Bott Radio Network, he said. Photo courtesy of Bott Radio Network/Flickr

The country music station enjoyed a large audience, but was losing money due to mismanagement, Bott said. The couple changed the call letters to KCCV – Kansas City’s Christian Voice – and switched the format at noon shortly after purchase.

“All that day and the next the phone rang and people were mad and angry,” said Bott, adding that such a response didn’t surprise him.

“By the second or third day, though, the people calling were saying ‘thank you.’ That was our new audience. Word of mouth spread in a hurry, and [that was] food in a land where people were hungry.”

A commitment to quality Christian programming has remained central to BRN, said Bott, who serves as chairman emeritus. His son, Rich, is BRN president and CEO.

Today, Bott Radio Network owns and operates 120 stations reaching 16 states and approximately 63 million people. It is also available online at BottRadioNetwork.com and through its mobile apps and platforms such as TuneIn Radio, Roku and Apple TV.

Bott, 89, has been recognized for his work in the field before. But on June 2 he was inducted into the Missouri Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame.

Bott’s great-granddaughter, College of the Ozarks student and communications major Isabella Fernandez, served as his surprise inductor.

Other notable inductees for the MBA Hall include Rush Limbaugh, Jack Buck and Harry Caray. Bob Costas was a fellow 2023 inductee alongside Bott.

Dick Bott, left, stands with fellow 2023 Missouri Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame inductee Bob Costas. At right is Rich Bott, Dick’s son and president of the Bott Radio Network. Photo courtesy of Bott Radio Network/Flickr

Bott serves on the Board of Governors of National Religious Broadcasters and was inducted into the NRB Hall of Fame in 2008. He was a 2015 Dred Scott Freedom Award recipient and in 2016 received the Richard M. DeVos Free Enterprise Award for Exceptional Leadership from the Council of National Policy.

“I was proud, grateful and appreciative,” he told Baptist Press of the honor. The majority of the credit, he continued, goes to his team of broadcasters, engineers and numerous others critical to the work of the BRN over the years.

Bott emphasized the support of Sherley, his wife of 71 years. It was at her father’s radio station – KSAN in San Francisco – where he got his start in 1952.

Business was nothing new to Bott, who sold apples as a ten-year-old. He learned a valuable lesson, though, with a switch in programming the San Francisco station from one of multiple languages to a format focused on the growing African American community in the city as well as Oakland.

“You may know people by name, perhaps work with them, but you don’t really know them,” he said. “Where they live, where they came from, how they were raised. That experience was wonderful because I became immersed in that community.”

The decision to launch a Christian radio station in Kansas City, and establish the footprint of a worldwide radio network, brought with it the importance of community as well as devotion to integrity.

“You have to see it not just as a paycheck, but a ministry,” he said. “Give something of yourself to a cause. I’ve seen guys who were good at what they did, but didn’t care where they did it. You can’t build on that. You need a foundation with people who will grow with you.”

And even with a BRN lineup that includes voices such as Adrian Rogers, Charles Stanley, Alistair Begg, Anne Graham Lotz, Tony Evans and Steve Gaines, Bott is adamant that it is crucial to be part of a “good, local church.”

“That’s the only place where you will find the community, strength and support that people need,” said Bott, a member of Lenexa Baptist Church near Kansas City. “You learn from each other, help each other and care about each other.”