Even though Ernest Holbrook was not on staff at WPLA, he is included here because of his long association with the station. Ask anyone who worked there about him, and they will tell you that he was like a member of the WPLA family.
When WPLA signed on the air in 1949, he was only 20 years old and already pastoring his first church, Mt. Zion Assembly of God in Plant City. He also had one of the first church programs on the radio station, “Mt. Zion Revivaltime,” which aired on Saturdays. In 1954, the program moved to weekday mornings at 8:15, then to 5:15 in the late afternoon in the early 1960’s. His association with WPLA was one that would last almost 40 years.
“Mt. Zion Revivaltime” became “Temple Vespers” when Ernest left Mt. Zion church and founded Faith Temple Assembly of God along I-4 near the Polk-Hillsborough county line. While the name of the non-denominational radio program may have changed, it maintained the same familiar format – two songs, some religious news, words to help the listener along life’s way, and a thought for the day from God’s word.
Over the years, his show’s theme song became a favorite with listeners. It was called “One Step (Toward the Lord)” (RCA Victor #47-5417), recorded in 1953 by The Three Suns, a group famous at the time for its pop hits "Peg O’My Heart" and "Twilight Time." The vocals were sung by Mary Mayo and Buddy Nee. Ernest wore out quite a few copies of the record over the years and finally had to put the theme on tape after RCA told him that they could no longer provide replacement copies.
Ernest’s love for singing gospel music was widely known, and, with some other pastor-friends, he became a founding member of two gospel quartets in the 1960’s and 1970’s, The Sons of Harmony, who released one LP, and The Songsmen, who recorded two albums in Nashville.
He was a longtime member of the East Hillsborough County Ministerial Association and even served as its president. In 1993, the City Commission of Plant City proclaimed him “The Official Radio Minister of the Plant City-Lakeland Area.” His radio show had been heard from 1949 to 1990 on WPLA, from 1976 to 1996 on WCIE-FM in Lakeland, and from 1996 to 1999 on Auburndale’s WTWB. In 1978 he also custom-tailored a 15-minute version aimed at young people for Lakeland Top 40 station WQPD.
In 2002, after serving as senior pastor at Faith Temple for 27 years, Ernest moved from his home adjacent to the church to the south side of Lakeland and wrote his autobiography. The 500+ page "I’m Glad I Lived" was finished in 2004 and published by Author House. In it, he included plenty of pictures along with stories of his years in the ministry, real-life “incidents and accidents” that happened to or were caused by him from childhood to adulthood.
With encouragement and requests from friends to write more books, he authored more books – “The Country Parson” in 2006 and “One Earth - Four Worlds” in 2007, both Christian novels. His fourth book came out in December 2008, “Saul of Tarsus - Before and After,” and a fifth, “When God Became A Man – And Why,” in 2009. He also wrote “Looking to Christ’s Millennium,” “The Miracle Of the Severed Ear,” “Probing the Mysteries of God, Ourselves, and the Quickly Approaching End Times,” and “Joseph.”
Ernest passed away from heart failure on May 20, 2011 at Lakeland Regional Medical Center. He was 82.
1949 - 1990 WPLA (On Air Personality)