Tacoma’s KTBI (KTAC) Call Letter History

The first religious radio station in Los Angeles was radio station KJS, located at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA), at the corner of 6th and Hope Streets. KJS went on the air March 22, 1922 after it was licensed March 10, 1922. Some say KJS was the first radio station in the United States to program an all-religious format, not just Sunday church services.

KJS was said to have stood for “King Jesus Saves.” Later, an electric sign that read “Jesus Saves” was placed atop the BIOLA building next to the KJS/KTBI antenna.

In the summer of 1925, station KJS changed its call letters to KTBI, to identify itself more easily with “The Bible Institute.” Today, this historic Bible college and Christian school of higher education is known as Biola University in La Mirada.

What became of KJS/KTBI? This historic radio station operated as a non-commercial station from contributions sent in to BIOLA. After the Great Depression hit, the college decided to sell KTBI (1330-AM), because they could no longer afford the expenses of the station.

In April 1931, BIOLA sold KTBI to luxury automobile dealer E.L.Cord for more than $31,000. Cord renamed the station to call letters KFAC, for Fuller, Auburn and Cord. Auburn and Cord were cars that Cord’s company manufactured and sold at Fuller Motors on Wilshire Boulevard at Mariposa. KFAC radio operated from atop the car dealership.

KFAC-AM continued broadcasting in Los Angeles on 1300-AM until March 1941, when it moved on the radio dial to 1330-AM. January 17, 1989, was its final night on the air. KFAC-AM was sold to a Spanish language broadcaster in Pasadena. After KFAC’s final night on the air, 1330-AM in Los Angeles became KWKW, which it remains until today.

KJS/KTBI lasted only 9 years, but preceded even KFSG which had become more famous and was often inaccurately credited with being the first religious radio station in Los Angeles. KJS/KTBI was still very popular in its day in the 1920s and up till 1931.

After KTBI was sold and became KFAC, BIOLA sometimes produced their own religious programs for KFAC on Sundays, which later became “The Biola Hour.” The program is still is on the air today, syndicated to religious stations across the U.S.

Source: Radio historian Jim Hilliker of Monterey, California

The next use of the call letters was in Tacoma, Washington. KTBI went on the air in the early 40s at 1490 on the AM dial with 250 watts which was the maximum power for what were know as Class 4 radio stations. KTBI was owned and operated by a corporation, Tacoma Broadcasters, Incorporated. Obviously the TBI in the call letters meant Tacoma Broadcasters Incorporated.

This is the station at which Tom Read, President of modern day KTBI, began learning the broadcasting business. After the war in the late 40s, KTBI was granted permission to move from 1490, 250 watts to 810, 1000 watts daytime. The studio was moved from the second floor of the Puget Sound Bank Building in Tacoma to a beautiful new, studio/transmitter located at 2715 Center Street, literally in the center of Tacoma.

In the early 50’s, KTBI received permission to move from 810 to 850 and go full time. On 850, the station call letters changed to KTAC. 810 was used for a short time by a station in Western Canada and then became available as a major 50,000 watt facility for Central Washington to proclaim the Gospel.

Today, KTBI is an affiliate of the American Christian Network and airs the finest Bible teachers in the country. Source: TOM READ

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