Cephas Bowles, former CEO of New Jersey’s WBGO, dies at 62

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Cephas Bowles, former c.e.o. and president of WBGO in Newark, N.J., died Feb. 21 in Hackensack, N.J., from complications from a stem cell transplant. He was 62.

Bowles was senior executive of WBGO-FM from 1993 to 2014. He was diagnosed with leukemia in 2013 and took a leave of absence from his position. He retired from the station last year.

At WBGO, Bowles helped increase financial support of the station through “innovative programming, special events, live broadcasts and social media,” according to a statement. WBGO was the first jazz station to stream via the Internet, in 1998.

In 2012, Bowles led a capital campaign to build a broadcast tower for WBGO in midtown Manhattan, increasing the station’s reach into the city.

“I met Cephas the day he was interviewed at my office for the general manager job at WBGO,” said Philip Elberg, former WBGO board chair, on a WBGO tribute page to Bowles. “At the time, the station was increasingly popular, but it was broke. It needed strong leadership — someone who would pay attention to the details and provide the professionalism that would help WBGO become the lasting institution with diverse leadership that we envisioned.”

Bowles “was a wonder to behold,” Elberg said. “. . . He was driven in his commitment to the station.”

“As we spent our last few hours together, Cephas was comforted by the sounds of jazz wafting throughout the room,” Linda Arrington-Bowles, his wife of nearly 18 years, said in a statement. “He bobbed his head and tapped out the beats with his finger while his beloved WBGO played to the very end.”

Bowles also served on NPR’s board of directors from 2001-07.

In an email to station managers, NPR CEO Jarl Mohn wrote, “Everyone here who worked closely in partnership with Cephas over the years speaks of his great leadership, his vision, his kindness, and his integrity.”

In 2007, the NPR board adopted a resolution honoring Bowles for his service to public radio, the NPR board, and NPR member stations. “Bowles has served with distinction, uncommon accomplishment and consistent excellence in leadership throughout his 35-year career in broadcasting,” the resolution said.

Bowles graduated from Syracuse University in 1974 with a broadcasting degree. He worked for college radio station WAER and was inducted into the station’s hall of fame in 2014.

In 1979, Bowles became program assistant at KUAT in Tucson, Ariz., then program director in 1981 and assistant g.m. and station manager in 1983.

Bowles is survived by his wife, Linda Arrington-Bowles, and five siblings: Carey Bowles Jr., Ruth Hall (Jerry), Paul Bowles, Elizabeth Gaskin (Orrett) and Deborah Bowles; and a host of cousins, nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews. He was preceded in death by his father, Carey C. Bowles Sr.; mother Sarah Rosa Bowles; and sister Sarah Wilson.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Fountain Baptist Church Manna from Heaven Food Pantry, Syracuse University Black Alumni, WAER, KUAT, WBGO and Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide.

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