Charles Henry Garrett may not be a household name to Texans, but his fascination with electronics inadvertently earned him a permanent place in the history of not only Texas, but also the history of radio broadcasting in the United States. 

The seed of Garrett’s fascination with wireless was planted in 1912.  Henry, or “Dad” as he was often referred to, was an electrical engineer for the Dallas Fire Department.  As the story goes, one day a huge fire broke out at a lumber company on the south side of Dallas.  So large was this fire that every member of the fire department was called to the scene.  At the same time, a blaze erupted on the opposite end of the city.  With telephone lines destroyed at the lumber company, it was impossible to alert the firefighters that there was another fire now on the rampage.  Garrett knew the power that the "wireless telegraph" that he'd heard about could have had in that situation.  With the right equipment, those firefighters could have been alerted to the second fire, even  without telephone lines.

In the following years, Garrett spent his free time experimenting with homemade receivers incorporated into the frame of his car.  He eventually succeeded in receiving weak voice transmissions in his car at a distance of five miles from the central fire station – Garrett knew he was on to something big. 

By the late 1910’s, there were already a few radio amateurs experimenting with wireless transmissions:  Frank M. Corlett of Eighth Street operated three amateur stations (5ZC, 5XG and 5ZG) between 1919 and 1922.  (The Department of Commerce had divided the nation into several districts; amateurs were given call signs that started with the number of the district in which they were located.)   Bennett Emerson of Wendelkin Street began 5DU in 1920.  Henry Garrett himself received a license for 5NY in 1921.

The concept that Garrett had for the fire department soon turned into something even bigger:  equip the Dallas Police Department with a wireless operation so that news of crimes could be sent out across the land and criminals would be unable to simply slip out of town to escape being caught.  Plans were drawn up in early 1921, and on June 4 of that year under Garrett's direction, the Dallas police radio system officially began sending out its nightly reports.  Both by Morse code and by voice, the reports sent out from the second floor of the Dallas Fire Hall gave descriptions of persons wanted and other important police information.  These were the humble beginnings not only what would evolve into radio station WRR, but also of broadcasting in north Texas.

(The Dallas News gave the operation a full page feature in August 1921, Garrett can be seen with headphones on in the middle of the right side middle photo.) 


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