The John R. Hickman Collection consists of more than 10,000 broadcast quality audio recordings of vintage radio news and entertainment programs, from the 1920s through the 1970s. It contains reel-to-reel tapes, metal and vinyl discs, electronic transcripts from studio masters, wax cylinders, and books. The Hickman Collection includes a wide variety of entertainment programs, including comedies, detective shows, dramas, mysteries, quiz shows, soap operas, talk shows, and westerns. While the collection includes some of the most popular shows from the Golden Age of Radio, such as Dragnet (over 50 episodes), Amos 'n' Andy (over 30 episodes), Gunsmoke (more than 140 episodes), Edgar Bergen/Charlie McCarthy (more than 55 episodes), and The Lone Ranger (over 40 episodes), there are other notable classics and special programming:
- Select episodes from One Man's Family. Running from 1932 until 1959, it spawned a television show and is considered one of the first soap operas on radio.
- Episodes from Don McNeill's The Breakfast Club including the final broadcast. This program was radio's longest running network entertainment show (1933-1968).
- WJSV's (Washington, D.C) entire September 21, 1939 broadcast day featuring important news events from Europe at the start of World War II, an address by President Roosevelt before Congress, and entertainment programs offering a glimpse of life in the United States at the end of the 1930s, such as The Romance of Helen Trent and Amos 'n' Andy, play-by-play from a Senators baseball game, and musical selections from the Louie Prima Orchestra.
The collection also boasts historic radio news broadcasts, including eyewitness accounts of the Hindenburg airship crash in 1937, Marian Anderson's concert at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939, the first reports of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, comprehensive coverage of the D-Day invasion in 1944, the funeral of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945, live remotes from the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London in 1953, and day-of analysis of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. News programs include commentary from such notable broadcasters as Edward R. Murrow, H.V. Kaltenborn, Robert (Bob) Trout, Mary Margaret McBride, Robert Baukhage, and Fulton Lewis Jr.
A select portion of this collection has been digitized and is available through WRLC Digital & Special Collections.
John R. Hickman (1944-1999) was a radio historian and WAMU-FM, Washington, D.C., on-air personality who started collecting vintage radio programs when he was a teenager and began working at WRC-AM, Washington, D.C., while still in high school. Hickman graduated from American University, Washington, D.C., in 1966, with a bachelor's degree in English and broadcasting. Following a short stint as music director of WRC, he joined the United States Army in 1967, where he taught broadcasting for Armed Forces Radio-TV. After his return to civilian life, he taught broadcasting for ITT Educational Services in Washington, D.C, served as public information officer for the Veterans Administration, and continued to pursue a freelance radio career, including announcing, producing, and writing initiatives.
As an undergraduate at American University in 1964, Hickman inaugurated a half-hour weekly show on WAMU devoted to classic programs which quickly grew in popularity. Hickman hosted the program, now expanded to four hours and known as The Big Broadcast, until 1990 when he retired in failing health. A lifetime radio enthusiast, Hickman donated his collection of vintage programming to the University in 1994.