Obit­u­ar­ies

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY TI­MOTHY R. SMITH smitht@wash­post.com

Jack Rowzie left his job as a D.C. po­lice of­fi­cer to be­come a full-time disc jockey, even­tu­ally run­ning “Night Beat” on WWDC.

In the mid-1940s, Jack Rowzie was a D.C. po­lice of­fi­cer who sup­ple­mented his in­come as a part-time disc jockey for WINX, a ra­dio sta­tion in Cam­bridge, on Mary­land’s East­ern Shore. His sec­ond job vi­o­lated po­lice depart­ment rules, but Mr. Rowzie loved mu­sic (and needed the money). Be­sides, the sta­tion was so far away, how would any­one on the force ever find out?

One day in early Fe­bru­ary 1946, a WINX ex­ec­u­tive called and said the sta­tion was do­ing a re­mote broad­cast from the District, but the an­nouncer had taken sick. Could Mr. Rowzie fill in? He jumped in a cab. When Mr. Rowzie en­tered the au­di­to­rium, he saw his mi­cro­phone on stage, along with the D.C. po­lice band. In the au­di­ence was his boss Col. Ed­ward J. Kelly, the District’s su­per­in­ten­dent of po­lice. It was Kelly’s re­tire­ment cer­e­mony.

Mr. Rowzie did the broad­cast, but the beans were spilled. The depart­ment made him de­cide be­tween his two ca­reers. He chose to be­come a full-time dee­jay at WINX. Later, he went to WWDC in Sil­ver Spring.

His wife was re­lieved when he quit the force be­cause she thought he would have bet­ter work­ing hours. In­stead, WWDC gave Mr. Rowzie the 1 to 6 a.m. slot for “Night Beat,” a po­licethemed show that was in­tro­duced with a song about a paddy wagon.

Mr. Rowzie, who was 96 when he died Dec. 23 of con­ges­tive heart fail­ure at a nurs­ing home in Mid­dle­boro, Mass., be­came a lo­cal ra­dio fix­ture with “Night Beat” and was one of the first disc jock­eys in the D.C. area to broad­cast rock-and-roll.

The show was an eclec­tic mix of mu­sic, prayers and jokes that Mr. Rowzie — who wore a po­lice hat dur­ing broad­casts — de­liv­ered in a mel­low, min­is­te­rial voice.

He of­ten snoozed be­tween tracks. “I can sleep on a dime,” he told lis­ten­ers.

Mr. Rowzie, who was pas­sion­ate about his Chris­tian faith, ended each “Night Beat” show with gospel mu­sic or a hymn. But the bulk of the show pre­sented the con­tro­ver­sial new sound of rock-and-roll, and his core lis­ten­ers were teenagers.

“Our teenagers are turn­ing to rock-and-roll and mak­ing their own fa­vorites and stars of to­mor­row,” he wrote in a 1956 let­ter to TheWash­ing­ton Post.

Mr. Rowzie, who said he “ learned about crime the hard way — not from so­ci­o­log­i­cal text­books,” dis­missed wide­spread claims that rock-and-roll turned kids to vi­o­lence.

“I helped ap­pre­hend a num­ber of crim­i­nals,” he wrote in his let­ter to The Post. “Not one ever claimed that he ‘ did it be­cause of the mu­sic.’ ”

John Wel­dan Rowzie was born June 1, 1914, on a farm out­side Manas­sas. He moved toWash­ing­ton as a teenager and grad­u­ated from McKin­ley High School in the 1930s.

He was an auto me­chanic un­til join­ing the po­lice in 1942. He walked a beat around Thomas Cir­cle, then be­gan moon­light­ing at WINX three years later. He joined WWDC in 1950 and, in the late 1950s, moved from the overnight show to the 4 to 6 p.m. rush-hour slot.

Mr. Rowzie of­ten turned to gim­micks to in­crease rat­ings. Dur­ing his overnight show, he would pay $1 for us­able news tips phoned in to him. When he moved to the 4 p.m. slot, he posted a col­league on the road to give dol­lar bills to rush-hour com­muters lis­ten­ing to his pro­gram.

In 1961, he left to be a dee­jay at WEEL in Fair­fax County, but within two years he re­turned to WWDC, where he later did color com­men­tary for Washington Sen­a­tors games dur­ing their sun­set sea­sons in the city. He was sports di­rec­tor when he left the sta­tion in 1970.

Af­ter his ra­dio ca­reer, Mr. Rowzie be­came pub­lic re­la­tions di­rec­tor for MCD En­ter­prises, a New Car­roll­ton res­i­den­tial devel­op­ment firm. Dur­ing the 1980s, he was a spokesman for WTKK, a Chris­tian tele­vi­sion sta­tion in Manas­sas.

In 1955, Mr. Rowzie won a na­tional con­test as the disc jockey with the most re­quests to read a poem, “Why Do I Love You?” He had more than 10,000 re­quests. He do­nated his $500 prize to the For­est Ridge Bap­tist Church in For­est Hill, the church he be­longed to un­til he moved to Mas­sachusetts in 1993.

His mar­riage to Edith Evans ended in divorce.

Sur­vivors in­clude his wife of 33 years, Yolanda Garafolo Rowzie of Mid­dle­boro; three chil­dren from his first mar­riage, Kathi Rowzie of Mem­phis, Jon Rowzie of Punta Gorda, Fla., and Donna Sh­pil of Rich­mond; five grand­chil­dren; and three great-grand­chil­dren.

Mr. Rowzie once au­di­tioned for WOR in an at­tempt to break into the big­ger game of New York City ra­dio. He did not get the job, The Post re­ported in the 1950s, be­cause he sounded too much like an­other an­nouncer on staff: his younger brother.

THE WASHINGTON POST

In the overnight shift from 1 to 6 a.m. on WWDC, Jack Rowzie ran “Night Beat,” a po­lice-themed show.

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