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CMB Pioneers: Jim Campbell

Welcome to another story about one of the pioneers of Contemporary Christian Music Radio. You can read previous stories here. Some of these pioneers started radio stations with just a few dollars to their name. Many had very little radio experience. Some worked in mainstream radio before coming to CCM. But each had vision, a calling, and a deep passion for using Contemporary Christian Music Radio to impact their community.

Jim Campbell – Champion for Local Radio, Bold, Obedient, Excellence

Editor’s Note: “I’ve never had a 5-year plan!” Jim Campbell said to me, as we began our conversation. “This has always been a one-year-at-a-time ministry. There was never a master plan to be one station, two stations, or twenty stations! I just tried to be faithful with what God provided!” Jim continued, “If there is any kind of success that I can reflect back on, the credit has to go to a great staff. Today, we have 130 people on our team and I trust these people with my life. They are as committed to the call as I am. I deeply love them and care for all of them.” 

This is Jim Campbell from the Radio Training Network. 

Jim Campbell grew up in a sharecropper’s family in rural Tennessee. They were very poor. A sharecropper never really got ahead. If you made any money, you gave the property owner a percentage. But it was there that Jim learned to work hard. His mom, Lyda, was the biggest influence in his life. He remembers seeing her take chickens to church so that she could pay her tithes. He also remembers going to town on Saturdays and there was a little AM radio station right on the corner. That grabbed his attention. He would stand there and watch the radio announcers for hours. He dreamed that he could be a radio announcer one day. He accepted Christ as a child. They were a church-going family, and as a young man, he felt that God had a call on his life, and although he wasn’t called to be a pastor, he never doubted his call to ministry. 

Jim’s his first chance to be a radio DJ was at age 19 at a small full-service AM radio station in Dyersburg, TN and he loved it. He did the morning show. “It was FUN RADIO,” he says. He became known as “Jumping Jim in the Morning!”  

He met Ruth in math class in the 9th grade. They dated all during high school and were married right after they graduated. It wasn’t very long before they had two kids! And even though they were happy in their small town in Tennessee, Jim was still feeling the “call” on his life. So, he loaded up his young family into a VW Beetle and moved to Florida to attend Southeastern University. He still didn’t think he was supposed to be a preacher, but he was trying to follow the Lords leading. 

“People ask me…How do you find the call of God in your life?” he says. “And I always tell them to just get up , put your pants on, and go to work. When you do that, God will open the right doors for you!”

While he was attending college he needed to work full time, so he found a job at WONN-AM in Lakeland Florida. That meant that he did weekends on the air, sold ads during the week, and took a full load of classes, too. Whew! They were still broke! They ate a lot of bologna in those days, too, but he remembers that learned a lot about the business side of radio. (For example: If he didn’t sell any ads, he wasn’t going to get paid.)  

He graduated from Southeastern University in 1969 and took a full-time position as Youth Pastor and  Music Director on the staff of First Assembly of God Church, Lakeland Florida. (Remember…Jim never thought he was called to be a pastor, but there weren’t really a lot of Christian radio jobs in those early days.) So, he worked full time at the church and still did a part time 2-hour shift on WTWB radio, because he enjoyed it so much. Soon, his CCM radio show was receiving so much response, that he talked to the Senior Pastor of the Church and suggested that they should apply for a radio station frequency in the area! They did! In May 1975, a 100,000 Watt FM frequency was granted to Evangel Christian School in Lakeland Florida and the call letters were chosen, WCIE (Where Christ is Everything!)  It would become one of the nation’s first successful full time CCM stations.

WCIE Button from 1976


The Original WCIE

The listenership at WCIE exploded right away. It was growing beyond their wildest dreams. People wanted to hear this type of music. The weekly cume almost immediately surpassed 100,000. They were playing the latest and most popular Christian music. (I.E. Evie, Petra, Phil Driscoll, etc.) Jim was the Station Manager but this wasn’t his full-time job. He was still Music Director at the church and the radio station was just a portion of his role. In the coming years, Jon Hull, Bill Scott, and others joined the team.


Jon Hull WCIE 1980s


As Jim reflects back, he remembers that even though their audience was growing rapidly right away, they had no experience in fundraising. Instead, they were learning as they went. (This was before Share Media and other fundraising experts were around.) The early days of fundraising were slow and trial and error. Their first Sharathon had a goal of $50,000 and they raised $5000. But it was only the beginning. They would learn. Soon WCIE was growing in revenue, too.  A little later, they felt called to expand to more stations and they raised money to build 2 other radio stations as mission projects. WJFJ (His Radio) Greenville, SC and WJIS (The JOY FM) in Sarasota soon signed on and began to grow, too. Even with three radio stations, Jim’s main job was still as an employee of the church. He eventually became Administrative Pastor. He served at First Assembly of God for 22 years. 

And then he was fired. 

In 1989, Evangel Christian School sold the original WCIE to Moody Radio. This was unheard of in those days. Non-profit radio stations were not sold back then. It shocked everyone, especially Jim. He didn’t know what he would do, so he and Ruth just took 3 months and prayed. They knew they had been called to start the station, but what was next?  Jim describes the next part of the story like this…

”A gentleman in the community named Bill Watkins reached out to me around this time and said, “I want to help you continue doing the ministry of radio.” I told him that I didn’t have any money, and he said, “Let me get the money. I can take care of that. Go and see if the church will sell the 2 other radio stations that you had started. I’ll help you buy them, but after that you will be on your own to run them.” He proceeded to write me a check for $1.1 million! When I asked if we needed some sort of a contract, he said, “no I trust you, let’s do it.”

In 1989, Jim, Bill, and 7 other board members formed the Radio Training Network (a non profit ministry) and purchased WLFJ (His Radio) and WJIS (The JOY FM) for $1.1 million. There was no longer a church staff involved in oversight of day to day radio operations and strategic direction of the radio stations. Now, this new Board was could soley focus on the ministry of Christian radio! Jim says, “We made a few commitments in those early years and we’ve tried to stick to them. We committed to using these stations to reach people for Christ, to do local radio and do it with excellence, and to never to take on any debt.”  (Note: Today, RTN has no debt!)

Focusing on local, the His Radio remote van


His Radio recent remote broadcast from Raleigh, NC


All 9 board members have held lifetime positions, only 5 are still alive and continue to be board members. “Some people frown on lifetime board members,” Jim says, “But I believe when you have a board that understands the vision, you should keep them together.”



“Almost every single time we have entered into a new market, it’s because a local group has asked us to come to their city,” Jim says. “God just keeps blessing us and providing the funds each time and to do it in a way that we don’t have to take on debt.”

Today RTN stations are in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, NC, and South Carolina. They have a combined listening audience of 1.9 million weekly listeners on 102 broadcast signals. Additionally, they have 14 mobile Apps, too, with over 12 million hours of online listening and 4.4 million user sessions. 

“We try to be as local as we can in every market that we serve in.  We believe in local radio.  Even in markets where we don’t have a studio, we hire a market “point person/manager” and challenge them to become the “Christian mayor for the city.”



Most RTN stations are in the Southeastern US, but not all.  For example, there are stations in Springfield and Joplin, MO. This was again an example of local people coming to them asking to come to their city. Recently stations were launched in Orlando, Jacksonville, and Port St Lucie. Jim is especially proud of The JOY Crew these days. This team is always on the streets. They love on the listeners, give away prizes, and connect locally. They have been involved in over 100 events across Florida this year alone.


The Return of WCIE

The sale of the original WCIE was an industry milestone. That station was often #1 or #2 in the ratings and was having a huge impact in the area. But then it was gone…Years later, RTN was able to acquire a small rim shot station in the Tampa area, but it didn’t have the coverage area or impact of the original WCIE. But God had a plan that took many years to come to fruition. Step 1, another station in the area sold their frequency to RTN, (This was a miracle.)  Step 2, the FCC allowed them to take that purchased station “dark,” (another miracle- The FCC does not often allow that.) Step 3, God worked it out where the school (original owners of WCIE) sold the call letters to RTN, (another miracle- remember this is the place that had once fired Jim!) Finally, God provided $2.2 million dollars and no debt was taken.

With Carmen Brown (current Station Manager-WCIE and morning show co-host) and Rita Christie (WCIE Morning Host in 1975)


That’s not all! WCIE recently upgraded their facility (a new 16,500 square feet building) at a cost of over $3 million, and God provided all of these funds, including a one day on-air fundraiser where they raised 1.6 million dollars!

Today, at 82 Jim is still working almost full time. He doesn’t have a set plan to retire, but there is an initial process underway of a succession plan. “I want to do everything I can to reach as many people as we can.  Radio, Internet, whatever!” he says. “If we don’t take advantage of these things, we will be held accountable.” 

Ruth adds, “He always has 3-4 new projects going on…we are always looking for new things to further the ministry.”

Ruth Campbell (Jim’s wife of 63 years)


RTN Team members attending CMB Momentum in 2023


“There have been so many amazing stories from listeners over all of the years,” he says, “I love every one of them. But I think my favorite story will always be from our own Rob Dempsey who is the Station Manager and Morning Show Host at His Radio. Rob was homeless many years ago and living under a bridge when he found a walkman in the trash and started listening to the original WCIE. One day, while listening, he gave his life to the Lord, and that changed everything for him. Who would believe that years later, he would eventually come to work for us and become a person who ministers to other radio listeners? I just believe in the power of Christian radio and Christian media!”


Jim Campbell in the tech room


Jim at The JOY FM


A Final Note from Jim…

Dear CCM Radio, 

Keep your passion. Surround yourself with people with the same passion.  Know why you do what you do. 

Jim Campbell



Who is a CCM Radio Pioneer that should be featured in a future article? Reach out to me at

Faron Dice has been in Christian Music Radio for almost 40 years. He is the former Chief Content Officer for WayFM, and currently loves working with radio stations and artists as National Director of Radio and Artist Engagement for OneChild.