Seymour Odelle Ward, known as “S.O.” to his friends, was born in Allensville, KY on December 19, 1903. He graduated from high school there and attended David Lipscomb College in Nashville, TN for two years and the University of Kentucky where he studied electrical engineering. Following that, he enrolled at the RCA Radio Institute in New York City to study radio engineering.
On Christmas Day 1930, Ward married Dorothy Breeding and began his career in the broadcasting industry as an engineer and part owner of radio station WDAD in Nashville. This station was later sold to the Life and Casualty Insurance Company and the call letters changed to WLAC. In 1935 he left WLAC and joined associates in establishing new radio stations in Kentucky and Tennessee.
In 1939 Ward returned to WLAC and served three years there as acting manager. During this time, he learned that WLAK, a struggling 250 watt NBC affiliate in Lakeland, FL, might be for sale by owner Bradley R. Eidmann, and went to investigate the situation. In September 1941 he made an offer to purchase the station for $23,000 and filed an application with the FCC in December of that year. The authority for transfer of the station finally came on April 14, 1942. The next year his only child, Jane, was born and, in 1947, he and a partner built WROD in Daytona Beach.
Ward was a member of the Radio Pioneers of America, a member of the National Association of Broadcasters, and an active leader in the Florida Association of Broadcasters, serving two terms on its board and one term as president. He was active in his local community, too, and served three terms on the board of the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce, including one year as its president, and was a member of the Board of Directors of Florida College in Temple Terrace, near Tampa. He received the “Horace Gibson Citizenship Award” in 1948 as Lakeland’s outstanding citizen of the year, and was one of the organizers of Polk Federal Savings and Loan Association, which eventually merged into the Barnett Banks system. For many years he was also an elder at the Lake Wire Church of Christ in Lakeland.
In 1958 Ward retired from broadcasting and sold WLAK to Frank W. Nesbitt and Howard W. Cann, Jr. of New York City for $300,000. At this time WLAK was an extremely successful NBC affiliate, broadcasting with 5,000 watts. Following the sale, he built and managed the Ramada Inn in Lakeland. His wife passed away in 1990 four days after celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. A year later, he moved to Madison, AL to live with his daughter and son-in-law, and passed away there in January 1998 at the age of 94.
1942 - 1958 WLAK (Management)