The Original Famous Hams and ex-Hams List
Rumors and Mistaken
our readers: I make no claims as to the absolute accuracy of this information, gleaned from many sources, including lots
of apocryphal hearsay!
Some of the callsigns in the US may have changed recently due to Vanity Callsign program. So you know,
I've been keeping lists like this for the past 20 years, starting on a NJ BBS, later on Prodigy and GEnie ham boards.
The HTML version here dates back to the early 90's. I've added a section at the bottom for sites that appear to contain similar info.
The acronym (SK) means "Silent Key" - a a time-honored radio euphemism for "deceased"
Please send additions, clarifications, amplifications and corrections to me, Gerry Jurrens, N2GJ:
[Click HERE to send me email]
Last update: 10-SEP-2004
||Claim to Fame
||aka "Ben Birnie" - Swing-era bandleader. Ben Bernie (not Ben Birnie) was the bandleader, and he died in 1943.
No way he could have had the call "WB2JDG." Also, his real name wasn't Robert Byrne; it was "Bernard Anzelevitz."
Here's his bio;
There is no WB2JDG listed anywhere except here; although there is a modern singer-songwriter "Robert Byrne," there is nothing
that suggests he's a ham radio operator. ||originally
listing via W2AAB; moved to Rumors
based on W2SG research
||A number of sites have Mr. Miller listed as
a notable ham. They cite the mistaken "fact" that he
is or was an attorney with the IEEE. He has written a couple of
articles for their journal, but, in our opinion, this hardly qualifies
him for inclusion on our esteemed list.
||Originally listed on our
Famous Hams site;
this erroneous listing has been duplicated quite a few times around the Internet, reinforcing the dubious
value of plagiarism!
||This is NOT the TV personality! Has the same name. The
entertainer once held the callsign KA7EVD and is listed on my Famous Hams site.
||WD4SKT is named Donald P. Osmond, and was born November 23,
1954. See this link.
"Donnie Osmond," the entertainer, is named Donald Clark
Osmond, and was
born December 9, 1957. See this link.
||is NOT a baseball player as some sites would have you
believe...check out my Famous Hams site
for the truth!
||James J. Stewart
|Has similar name as famous actor; some sites list him as being
Stewart Granger, also bogus.
||N6KGB born 23-OCT-1918; movie actor James L. Stewart (aka Stewart Granger) born 6-MAY-1913; movie actor James
M. Stewart (aka Jimmy Stewart) born 20-MAY 1908; N6KGB renewed his license in 1994 after Stewart Granger died
||NOT the famous news broadcaster
||NOT the famous Singer/Songwriter
|| WP4CO was born on 30-MAY-1935, and most
biographies list the singer's birthday as 10-SEP-1945. (via K4GZZ)
Were/Are They or Weren't/Aren't
Other folks, many of whom are now Silent Keys, who have been
listed as possible ham radio operators:
- Mahatma Gandhi, Statesman
- Samuel Ruiz, bishop of Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, Mexico (via XE1ZVO)
- A leader/perhaps head of state in Malaysia
- Tony Hancock, Actor, starred in a spoof (in fact, somewhat derogatory) comedy show about a radio ham.
- Edwin Armstrong, Inventor of FM ,superheterodyne receiver, etc. W2AAB
says that "in pre-license days, in 1909 or so, Armstrong
used the self-assigned call 'GS' on spark. This info came from
Armstrong's 'Silent Keys' listing in a 1954 'QST' magazine" (SK
31-JAN-1954). Born in 1890, Armstrong was inducted into the
Hall of Fame in 1990.
- Richard Feynman, Scientist --
- Ron Swoboda, former NY Mets star and New Orleans TV sportscaster may have been WA2HVM (call no longer active).
- Guglielmo Marconi, 1908 Nobel Prize winner for Physics, Inventor of Radio
- Lee De Forest, Inventor of the vacuum triode tube (which made modern radio possible!)
- Dr. Rudolf Hell, the brilliant German mathematician and inventor of the HellHellschreiber machine in 1929. You
can read his obituary at Dr. Hell Obituary
- Oleg Luzhny, who, according to Brendan Minish (EI6IZ) is "a
Ukrainian Soccer player currently playing in England's premier division for Arsnel FC. Oleg is a keen HF operator
and holds a Ukrainian call (and quite possibly a UK call, too)." If anyone can fill in Oleg's callsign, we'd be most
- From Gary Wilson, K2GW, comes a quote from "a story on inductees to National Business Hall of Fame...However,
there's no J.B. Fuqua currently listed in the FCC database: J.B. Fuqua, Chairman, The Fuqua Companies, A self-made man,
Fuqua's interest in ham radio as a teenager led him to start a radio station at age 21. He grew his fortune through his
radio and television stations and in 1965 purchased a small brick and tile company and turned it into the Fortune 500
Fuqua Industries within four years. Fuqua's philosophy was to use 'Other People's Money' and 'Other People's Brains'
to purchase companies and build a healthy conglomerate. He is recognized as one of the top 100 philanthropists in the
United States and founded Duke University's Fuqua School of Business."
- According to Jack, KD6SU, Spike Jones, the late, great bandleader, was an active ham. He also says he worked
Capt. Kurt Carlsen, W2ZXM, many times. He says "Capt. Carlsen was on the famous ship, the Flying Enterprise, that
sank during a storm in the English Channel in the late 1940's. I worked him many times over the later years as he wandered
the world in Flying Enterprise II."
- From Doug KN6NS@arrl.net: "Groucho Marks was a 40 meter high-speed cw op! Heard that Jack Webb and Ozzie Nelson
were also hams. (I got this from a bit-part actor who worked with Lloyd Bridges)" Bob, W8SU, adds "Concerning the rumor
that Ozzie Nelson had a ticket, it was my understanding one of his sons had a ticket, probably David who became an attorney. "
- (Via Bob W8SU): "I have checked until blue in the face about drummer great Gene Krupa, supposedly had a ticket.
Also band great Raymond Scott, he was way before his time, a Russian immigrant many years ago with his brother. Banjo
King, Eddie Peabody (If you ever heard Eddie play, it leaves an impression). I am also carrying MLB Stars Joe Rudi and
Manny Mota (on my list)." Howard Udoff, K2PYY, wrote that he worked him in 1959, but can't remember his callsign.
- (Via Bob W8SU): "I know bandleader Raymond Scott had a W6 call however I have never been able to ascertain what
it was. He originally was from Brooklyn, NY [via Jeff Winner]. He was also an inventor of electronic voice synthesizer gadgets, and rather popular
for that field. His wife (Dorothy Collins) was a lead singer on 'Your Hit Parade' of TV fame
while Scott led the band." According to Jeff, Scott's
brother led the "Radio" version of the show! Thanks,
Bob & Jeff!
- Gary, K2GW, wondered if the late Max Bice, W7AEA, had a hand in the founding of AEA Electronics.
According to an email I received (via W2SG),
contacted Mike Lamb, one of the founders of the original AEA company and
he tells me that Max was not a former employee. So we figure he must
have just had the luck of the draw on the call sign. Are there
family members who are interested in taking over the call sign?
If there is absolutely no family member who would ever want to
take the call sign, we might be interested in finding out if we could get
it for a club call when it is appropriate (5 years as I remember), but his
family absolutely must come first.
Wayne Dewey, WD6AHX V.P. Sales & Marketing AEA Wireless, Inc.
- Fred, W2AAB says that actress Linda Darnell (born Manettta Eloyse
Darnell) was supposed to have been active on 20 meter phone years
ago. Fred heard that story from K2AGZ, Dave Mann, who is listed
above. No call for Darnell is known.
- W2AAB says he heard that the late King Farouk of Egypt was also a
ham in the 1930's.
- Hugo Gernsback, for whom the "Hugo Award" given for
outstanding science fiction is named, is said to have been an active radio
amateur, according to W2AAB. On 2/26/2003, Jennifer Hagy,
N1TDY, of ARRL, wrote that "His call would have been mentioned
in an 1995 'QST' article [about him], if he had one." No one at
the League recalls a callsign associated with Mr. Gernsback.
- W2AAB lists Les Paul, famous electric guitar pioneer and developer
of multi-track recording techniques, was said to be a ham. At the
time, he was living in PA.
- W2AAB once heard that Leon Trotsky was a New York City ham back
around World War I. The 1920 callbook has a "Barnet Trotsky,
2SL, listed on W. 147th St. permitted to transmit 12 watts", but the
famous (infamous) Communist was born Lev Bronstein, according to his
biographers. Fred asks "Does anyone have any supporting data to
confirm this?" Inquiring minds want to know!
- Bob Evans, N2LO, writes that, in an interview in the NY Times, Steven
Spielberg mentions that his father was an amateur radio operator.
The article appeared on December 2, 2002, written by Sarah Boxer
- Steve W2SG writes that "According to these links, William
"Billie" Thomas (3/12/31-10/10/80), who played
"Buckwheat" in "The Little Rascal" comedies, was a
- Bob N2LO, would like us to add his personal hero, Charles Proteus Steinmetz,
to the list. Even though no records exist for Dr. Steinmetz having
actually been licensed as a radio amateur, his contribution to early radio
are legendary. According to Tony, W2BEJ, from the Schenectady Museum
Amateur Radio Association (SMARA), who
wrote to us after checking with several sources at General Electric and
the museum, says that "Steinmetz never held a ham call;
however, many of his associates did have ham calls."
- H. William "Bill" Sargent Jr., was the entertainment
impresario who pioneered pay-per-view television, put such stage plays as
"Hamlet," starring Richard Burton, into motion picture theaters
and produced the landmark film "Richard Pryor: Live in Concert."
In an article dated 26-OCT-2003, in the "Los Angeles Times," it
mentions that Mr. Sargent, "who burned down the family home trying to
repair a radio for his father at age 6, had become a licensed ham radio
operator by 9 and taught high school math at 11." Attempts
to find his callsign from those days have been unsuccessful. Any
leads are appreciated.
- I get a lot of notes about David Sarnoff having been licensed.
While he certainly was a radio operator (widely reported) we have been
unable to track down any information about a callsign. One recent
email flurry brought out the callsign 2ZK. Steve has thoroughly
researched this and this link
provides some additional info on this.