Hattie “Chatty Hatty” Leeper
Being known as “Chatty” is a sure sign of someone’s energy and zest for life – which is exactly what Hattie Leeper brought to the airwaves as Charlotte’s first female African-American radio broadcaster.
Born in 1934 in Edgemoor, SC, Leeper grew up in Charlotte listening to WGIV-AM, then the only ethnic station in town. As a teenager, she secured an internship at the station until, in 1948, an on-air position became vacant and the station manager offered her the microphone. She was thrilled.
“I felt really grateful,” she remembers. “I was a happy camper because I knew broadcasting was the job for me.”
It was the start of an 18-year tenure at the station as a disc jockey and on-air personality, during which she acquired the nickname that reflected her unorthodox and engaging broadcasting style. When the station’s format changed, she moved to WRPL-AM and later to WAYS-AM, working as an announcer and sales executive.
“I didn’t see this field of communication as work,” she said. “I looked at it as a hobby. That’s what made it so interesting.”
While she was becoming one of the state’s most well-known broadcasters, Leeper was also continuing her education, earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and then a master’s in education administration, both from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
“I had always liked law enforcement and always wanted to be an example,” she said. “And I have always felt it is important to not only get a good education, but get it in more than one field.”
To Leeper, education is the way to success. Her advice to young adults is to pursue and seek knowledge in every aspect of their lives.
“It means the world to have an education,” she said. “Education is the key that can unlock doors for you in life.”
In 1985, Leeper joined the faculty of Gaston College, serving as chair of the Broadcasting Department for 13 years until her retirement in 1998.
Leeper was recognized as a leader in the radio industry and served four years as secretary as an officer of the National Association of Radio/Television Announcers. In 1989, she was inducted into the Black Radio Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C.
In 2015, Leeper became the first African American to be inducted into the Charlotte Broadcasting Hall of Fame as a member of its inaugural class of honorees. She also was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award from WTVI the same year, one of numerous awards she has received over her life.
In 2007, she was the subject of a series of radio documentaries produced by the Smithsonian Institution and sponsored by the Department of Radio, Television and Motion Pictures at Howard University, which was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Creativity and Excellence.
Now a motivational speaker and author, Leeper continues to be a strong advocate of broadcasting as a career and enjoys helping young communication and broadcasting graduates secure jobs.
Author: Cassandra Talabi