WLRH (89.3 FM, "89.3 FM Public Radio") is a National Public Radio-affiliated radio station in Huntsville, Alabama. It primarily features news and classical music programming on weekdays and news, humor, folk, and jazz on weekends. WLRH serves the northern counties of Alabama and several counties in southern middle Tennessee.
The station maintains studios on the campus of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, although UAH is not its licensee; Alabama Public Television rents a building from the university for that purpose. WLRH's signal, which is transmitted from a tower on Green Mountain in southeastern Huntsville, travels in about a 60-mile radius. Nearby public radio stations include the Alabama Public Radio network (via its Muscle Shoals translator), Birmingham's WBHM, Nashville's WPLN-FM, and Chattanooga's WUTC and WSMC-FM.
The station was originally owned by the Huntsville Madison County Public Library. However, within a few months, the library realized that it had gotten in over its head with operating a full-service radio station. The Alabama Educational Television Commission (AETC) stepped in and bought the station, and still owns it today. The station carried, as was customary for public stations during that era, mostly classical music programming, with jazz late nights and on weekends. In 1987, after significant listener growth, UAH offered the AETC use of a newly-constructed facility on its campus, several miles to the west of downtown; WLRH took the offer and remains at that location today.
In the early years, the station carried some unusual programs, most notably a weekly hour-long German-language news and features show for the benefit of several natives of that land who worked in Huntsville's aerospace and defense industry. It also was the home of northern Alabama's first call-in radio talk show, which had a very different flavor than those found on commercial stations today (in fact, when the format's popularity exploded elsewhere in the 1990s, WLRH dropped the show).
Mrs. Watters is the sole remaining announcer from the station's beginning over 30 years ago. For many years in the 1980s and 1990s, she and husband Harry Watters, Sr. hosted the Saturday morning feature show "Sundial", well remembered by many residents of the Tennessee Valley for its gentle humor, listener participation games and unusual musical selections. Mrs. Watters discontinued the program when her husband died. Mrs. Watters is the mother of jazz trumpeter Ken Watters and trombonist Harry Watters, Jr.
One distinctive programming practice of WLRH is its frequent announcements throughout the broadcast day of underwriting day sponsorships made by individuals or families, in addition to the usual businesses and non-profit organizations. Usually, these messages honor birthdays or wedding anniversaries.
George Dickerson, a former South Bend, Ind. television news anchor, was the only general manager in WLRH's entire history until his retirement in early 2007. It is believed that Dickerson's tenure was the longest ever for a manager of an American public radio station (and perhaps all public broadcasting), exceeding 30 years. Oliver Stoutner, formerly with Mississippi Public Broadcasting and Iowa Public Radio, was named WLRH's new General Manager in August of 2008.