Robert Hill came to town on a mission.
“Informing and empowering the community,” he explained. “We saw a need to educate and empower the community.”
More specifically, Hill came to town to put WRNE 980 AM back on the air. That was in 1990. He only planned to stay six months before returning to Alabama.
“It’s been good,” he said, looking back on his time in Pensacola. “There’s just an unbelievable connection that you can establish with the community.”
Over the last couple of decades, Hill has established such a connection. Through WRNE, he has helped inform, entertain and foster a community.
The AM station caters primarily to the area’s minority community. It serves up news, along with a format centering on R&B oldies and urban contemporary music.
The radio station also serves to bring issues important to the community front and center. In addition to politics, the station focuses on health and education issues. WRNE has also conducted voter-registration drives and coordinated with local AIDS organizations to raise awareness about the area’s STD problem.
And over the years, Hill has seen his new hometown change—for the better.
“There’s been a transition,” he said. “Years ago you saw a lot of things that needed to be done, now things are happening and you want to be a part of it.”
One positive change the broadcaster has noticed is the increasing number of young black leaders—he mentions Lumon May and Lonnie Wesley—that have emerged in the area.
“Ten, 20 years ago there were very few of these political leaders there,” Hill said. “But they’re showing up right now.”
When asked how today’s youth might best contribute to their community, Hill pointed toward the education system.
“If they want to impact their community, get involved with any public school system,” he said. “There’s a great need for individuals who want to make a difference in the school system.”
In a few years, another opportunity for someone to impact their community will open up. Hill—who describes himself as a “workaholic”—is planning on taking leave of his post at WRNE.
“For 40-something years I have dedicated my life to radio. I love it. I love every minute. I love every day. I love this minute that I’m living right now,” Hill said, before laying out his plans for retirement. “I want to spend whatever time I have left reading and watching western movies.”
And while there are certainly footsteps to follow, whoever eventually takes over the lead at WRNE will need to forge their own path. Hill shaped and molded the radio station during his years in Pensacola, and he understands that it will soon evolve again.
“I consider my mission finished,” the broadcaster said. “It’s up to that person to do whatever they want to do.”
Hill, meanwhile, will be enjoying his time off-air.
“I love to wake up and open a book and not have to go to a meeting,” he laughed.