Mowry Lowe

Inducted: 1974
Born: 1910
Died: 1973

Mowry Lowe pioneered radio broadcasting in New England, starting with Station WEAN in 1931 and continuing active broadcasting for 40 years. WEAN became the first commercial radio station in Rhode Island when it signed on the air on June 5, 1922. The station was founded by John Shepherd, grandson of the founder of Shepherd’s Department Stores. Shepherd was a controversial figure in the early days of radio. Some found him ruthless and abrasive, but he was also an innovator. His slogan was “News while it is News,” and he fought to ensure his reporters like Mowry Lowe and Fred Friendly had the same access as the “newspaper” press. Two months after he founded WEAN, Joseph and Leon Samuels of the rival Outlet Company launched WJAR, just a block from the Shepherd’s Store in downtown Providence.

Lowe was born on March 12, 1910, the son of Samuel and Fanny (Udler) Perlow. He was a graduate of Pawtucket High School and Northeastern University. During the 1938 hurricane, he kept a 24-hour vigil at the microphone. He reported all activity within sight of the studio, where he could view most of downtown Providence, submerged under a storm tide of nearly 20 feet. The hurricane was responsible for 564 deaths in Southern New England. He was assisted by a young intern named Fred Friendly, whom Lowe mentored from 1937 to 1941. Lowe leaned out the window of the Crown Hotel, where the station was located, to interview stranded flood victims. Friendly described his role as going out into the flooded streets for coffee and sandwiches. He waded through rivers of water, holding the food above his head.

Friendly went on the air in the early 1930s as a high school student on WJAR in Providence to perform a one-act play. He began his broadcast career at WEAN in 1936 with Lowe as his mentor. One of Lowe’s most popular broadcasts was his “Man in the Street Program, which he conducted for seven years with the assistance of Friendly. Lowe helped Friendly produce “Footprints in the Snow,” a five-minute biography of famous people. Lowe and Friendly broadcast a quiz show called “What’s Your Name? It asked listeners to identify people in the news and historical figures. They also produced an award-winning documentary on the fall of Czechoslovakia in 1938. Friendly and Lowe produced the most popular shows on local radio before Friendly left in 1941. Friendly later became president of CBS News and created the popular TV series “See It Now.” Friendly also originated the concept of public-access cable TV channels.

In 1948, Lowe was appointed WEAN sales manager, and in 1950, he became the station’s general manager. In 1955, he left Rhode Island to become general manager of WTRY in Troy, New York, and president of Tri-City Radio. He returned to Rhode Island in 1961 as the general manager of the new radio station WLKW. Under his guidance, the station gained widespread acclaim for its excellent musical programs and concise and informative newscasts. He was a member of Governor John Chaffee’s advisory commission on educational television, an officer of Yankee Communications, Inc., and a member of the Board of Trustees of Roger Williams College. His civic contributions included service on the Governor’s Commission for Tourism, Chairman of the Rhode Island Heart Association Communications Committee, and Director of the Providence Chamber of Commerce. He also served for many years as a member of the Board of Directors of the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame, inducting his friend and former radio partner, Fred Friendly, in 1967. An avid golfer, Lowe was past president of the Ledgemont Country Club.

Lowe was a founder and first president of the Rhode Island Broadcasters Association. He received that organization’s distinguished service award in 1971, joining Fred Friendly, Chris Schenkel, and Senator John O. Pastore as recipients. For his long pioneering career as a radio broadcaster and executive, Mowry received the Shepherd Award in 2017. It is named after John and Richard Shepherd, founders of WEAN in Providence and WNAC in Boston, and awarded to those who have significantly contributed to broadcasting.

Lowe’s first wife, Sally Deluty, pre-deceased him in 1947. He was remarried in 1956 to Edna Giblin, and the couple had a daughter. Mowry Lowe died on October 1, 1973. “Mowry was at once a father figure, a colleague, and a brother,” Fred Friendly said in his eulogy.

Mowry Lowe was inducted into The Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 1974.

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