Cephas Bowles, a proud Newark native with a notable reputation in public radio, is being remembered for his 20 years of leadership at WBGO. Cephas passed away on Saturday, February 21, after a lengthy illness. He was 62.
WBGO could have had no better champion for our city and its music. A graduate of Newark's Barringer High School, Cephas loved his home town, and was born of its culture - especially its tradition of organ music. All of us at WBGO know that it was jazz in all its forms that sustained him, and throughout the week, our announcers have played and will continue to play musical tributes in his honor.
A staunch advocate for public radio both locally and nationally, Cephas' contributions to the viability and growth of WBGO led to the station becoming the leading jazz radio station in the United States, and arguably the world. Under his leadership, WBGO became the primary jazz content producer for NPR. Cephas led the charge for capital improvements to the station's headquarters in Newark, as well as the Signal Improvement Project, which involved installing a new transmitter and antenna atop 4 Times Square in New York City. He significantly grew WBGO's financial and human resources, and is remembered by all who worked with him as a consummate professional.
Cephas' career in radio spanned over 40 years, beginning at CBS News in New York City in 1974 as Assistant Producer for Spectrum. In 1978, he moved to Tucson, Arizona to work for KUAT, ultimately serving as the Radio Station Manager there from 1983 through 1990, as well as the University of Arizona's Acting Director of the Division of Media Studies. Cephas also served on a number of policy and programmatic committees and advisory boards for the City of Tucson, the University of Arizona, NPR, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He was a co-founder of Blacks in Public Broadcasting, and a longstanding committee member of the Tucson Community Foundation. Cephas relocated to Newark in 1993 taking over as General Manager at WBGO, and was named President and CEO in 2009.
Cephas served on the board of directors of National Public Radio, Inc. where he was the Chairman of the Investment and Administration/Finance Committees. He served as a longstanding member of the Newark Regional Business Partnership Board of Directors, and was a board member of the Syracuse University Jazz Appreciation Society. Bowles also offered his expertise to various community Boards, including the Newark Arts Council, Dover Zoning Board of Adjustment, State of NJ Martin Luther King Committee and National Jazz Museum of Harlem.
Bowles was the recipient of countless other awards including a Jazz Hero Award from the Jazz Journalists of America (2014); the New Jersey Performing Arts Center Ryan Community Service Award (2013); WBGO Champion of Jazz Award, (2013); Syracuse University Jazz Leadership and Alumni Jazz Appreciation Society awards (2012). Other honors included Recognition Award from NPR (2007); Associates in Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, Inc. Executive Leadership Award (2006); Newark School of the Arts Shining Star Award (2006); Eller MBA Alumni Achievement Award from the University of Arizona's Karl Eller Master of Business Administration Program (2004). The Star-Ledger named him one of New Jersey's most influential arts leaders (1998) and the City News tapped him as one the 100 Most Influential people (1997).