Duane F. McConnell
Duane was originally from Peoria, Illinois, born on October 5, 1920. He was raised in Tampa and graduated from Plant High School. In 1941, he left the University of Florida with a degree in Accounting and went to work for Montenegro Accounting in Tampa for $25 a month.
He had a lifelong interest in radio (earning the Boy Scout Radio Merit Badge) and became an amateur radio operator on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout. That interest, and a quadruple salary increase to $25 per week, led him to become a shift engineer at WFLA in Tampa. After returning to Gainesville to finish his degree in Electrical Engineering, he and two business partners formed Coastal Broadcasting and built Lakeland radio station WONN. When group sold WONN in 1957, he moved to Leesburg, FL and established WBIL AM-1410. Three years after that, he sold WBIL, returned to Lakeland, and bought back WONN, but this time there were no partners.
A few years went by and, still wanting to expand outside Polk County, Duane got FCC approval to build WSLC AM-1340 in Clermont in neighboring Lake County. This venture, however, turned out to be unsuccessful because of a freeze that devastated the area’s citrus-based economy in the winter of 1963. Waiting out the required three-year ownership period was a struggle but, in 1965, it was over and he sold the Clermont station. Six years later, in 1971, he unexpectedly sold WONN to NBC Sports personality Joe Garagiola.
He also founded or co-founded three Lakeland cable TV companies (Community Cablevision, Polk Cablevision, and Peoples Cable), became a partner in WVFM, a 100,000-watt Lakeland easy listening FM station, and held a financial interest in several other smaller central Florida stations.
After retiring, Duane continued to make his home in Lakeland and passed away there February 3, 2016 at the age of 95.
1971 - 1983 WVFM/WEZY-FM 94.1 - Lakeland (Management)