When he's asked to speak to journalism students at the University of Oklahoma or elsewhere about his career in communications, Kevin Perry, president of Perry Publishing & Broadcasting, usually opens with a story from his childhood.
He vividly recalls a day his dad, founder of The Black Chronicle, a 33-year-old weekly statewide newspaper, walked into his bedroom where Perry was listening to hip-hop music on the radio.
“Oh that music is terrible! It will never last,” he recalled his dad saying. “Pops didn't then recognize the power of radio, or that hip hop was up-and-coming. I like to tease him about it all the time.”
Today, Perry works alongside his father, chairman of the board, in the family business, which ironically now includes 16 radio stations, most of which play hip-hop. Four are dedicated to the genre.
The media company employs 430, about two-thirds of whom work in Oklahoma, at the Chronicle or one of 11 radio stations in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Lawton.
From his offices at NE 23 and Prospect, Perry, 30, recently sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about his personal and professional life. This is an edited transcript:
A: I grew up in northeast Oklahoma City. My father, Russell Perry, founded and ran The Black Chronicle after a decade with The Black Dispatch. My mother, Ranola, worked 20-plus years with OGE. All I remember them doing is working and being responsible. I have two sisters, who are 10 years and five years older than I — Velvet Perry of Augusta, Ga., who oversees our radio stations there and in South Carolina, and Shannon O'Stricker, a public school administrator in Atlanta.
A: In the second grade, I convinced my dad to let me help him and, on Thursday nights, we'd work until 2 or 3 in the morning, folding newspapers, labeling those that were to be mailed and delivering the remainder to households. It was OK with my mom, as long as I got up and went to school. Grades came easily to me and sports, too. For the Millwood Falcons, I played them all, starting on the varsity football team as a freshman. I was starting quarterback my senior year, and had the opportunity to play under the legendary coach Leodis Robinson.
A: I knew I wanted to go out of state, and was blessed that my parents could afford to send me. I applied to three schools, and got into the one I wanted — Morehouse College in Atlanta. Over a previous spring break vacation, I'd visited my sister Shannon at Spelman, More
A: I thought about going to law school and representing professional athletes as a sports agent or — after a grand summer internship with Glenn English and David Boren on Capitol Hill — becoming a great politician. But I never truly wavered from coming back to Oklahoma and making my way with Pops, who at the time of my graduation had only the weekly newspaper and one AM daytime radio station. My dad is my mentor and my best friend. Plus, true policy and politics can be made through good business practices. We not only adhere to good practices ourselves, but also help small businesses with good practices grow and provide an opportunity for social and conscientious commentary in the communities we serve.
A: I came on board 10 years ago. The late Carl Smith, who served many years as executive director of the OBA and is one of my mentors, recommended Dad and me. It's been a phenomenal ride, with my serving a stint as board member of the National Association of Broadcasters. The OBA, which is comprised of general managers and owners of TV and radio stations statewide, meets every other month and addresses current issues. Among other things, efforts include lobbying to help local broadcasters avoid paying performance taxes on top of the licensing fees we already pay and defend broadband television space that cellphone companies and others want to buy.
A: I pray to God that our family business stays alive for a third generation. That means I've got to do my job every day to make sure it's still here. By all accounts, radio is still powerful, still relevant. When I walk into my boys' room today, as my dad once walked into mine, Miles and Sebastian may be playing on their
• Position: Perry Publishing & Broadcasting, president and chief operating officer
• Birth date: Oct. 15, 1971
• Family: Tori, pharmaceutical sales representative and wife of 11 years; sons Miles, 9, and Sebastian, 7.
• Education: Morehouse College, bachelor's in banking and finance.
• Community involvement: A graduate of Leadership Oklahoma City, he currently serves on the boards of First Security Bank, the All Sports Association, Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Foundation and deadCenter Film Festival and, for the city of Oklahoma City chairs the Eastside Reinvestment Committee and serves on the Tax Increment Financing Committee.
• Pastimes: All sports events, from his sons' games (he coaches one of their basketball teams) to the Thunder, OU and Oklahoma State, tubing and water skiing from a longtime Perry family vacation home on Grand Lake.
• Favorite music: Old-school hip-hop, including Run-D.M.C, Fat Boys and EPMD.