John Albert Holmes, Jr. (1912-1989)

Holmes on the left side of postcard with WLOW microphone and Peach Snuff Can on right side with text "Yours for Sweet Peach Snuff," "Sweet as a Peach" and Jock Holmes signature at the bottom right hand side of the frame
Post card of John “Jack” Albert Holmes, Jr. advertising Peach brand snuff tobacco

John “Jack” Albert Holmes, Jr. (also known as “Daddy Jack Holmes”) was Virginia’s first Black disc jockey. He was born to John Albert Holmes, Sr., and Mary Holmes on July 1, 1912, in Merchantville, New Jersey. He graduated from Camden High School in Camden, New Jersey, in 1930.

Little is known about Holmes’ life in the years immediately following High School. He served in the US Navy between 1942-1946 and after an honorable discharge relocated to Portsmouth, Virginia, and made Hampton Roads his home in 1947. He began his radio career in 1949 at Portsmouth’s WLOW.

In 1952, Holmes was invited to visit the new 850 WRAP (Wicked Rap) AM Radio in Norfolk, Virginia, which featured R&B, soul music, gospel, news, talk shows, and other programs and advertising aimed at Black consumers in the Hampton Roads region, which comprises Norfolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Virginia Beach. Two years later, in 1954, he was on the air as a morning radio personality. The station was sold a few years after his death to Three Chiefs Broadcasting, and the call sign was changed from WRAP to WBSK.

“Daddy Jack” Holmes was more than a record spinner, he was also a storyteller who held his audience’s attention. He began each show loudly: “You’re listening to WRAP, and the time is 6:30 am. Git up from there! Let’s go, come on, come!” He was known for purposely giving the wrong time to ensure everyone got to work and school on time. Holmes conversed with his listening audience and held regular radio contests between the segregated high schools, calling them by name: Booker T. Washington in Norfolk and Suffolk, Crestwood and George Washington Carver in Chesapeake, John F. Kennedy in Suffolk, I.C. Norcom in Portsmouth, Huntington in Newport News, Union Kempsville in Virginia Beach, and George P. Phenix High School on the campus of Hampton University. He also connected Richmond’s Maggie Walker High School, one of only two Black High Schools in the city and named for entrepreneur Maggie Lena Walker, the first African American bank President in the USA.

Holmes died at age 75 on December 9, 1987, in Suffolk, Virginia. Twice married, he left behind one daughter, Patricia. In 2017, John Albert Holmes, Jr was posthumously inducted into the Legend of Music Walk of Fame and the Black Radio Hall of Fame by the City of Norfolk Government.

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