George Wilkins Harvey Jr., co-owner and manager of Spanish radio station WQBN-AM, died Monday (June 10, 1991) of a brain tumor at home. He was 49. After years in broadcasting in Tampa, Mr. Harvey purchased WTYM-AM radio with Frank DeTillio in 1987 in an effort to put the station, which had mediocre ratings, on the map. The station owners changed the call letters to WQBN to sound like "Cuban."
The station changed to a more contemporary format while still keeping its Spanish base, and the studios were moved from Temple Terrace to the heart of the Spanish community in West Tampa.
Mr. Harvey took Berlitz classes and traveled to Spanish-speaking countries with friends to try to learn as much as he could about the language and culture of the people.
"He was really into the Hispanic community," said Edith Vasquez, WQBN music director and morning radio personality. "He wanted to identify himself with the community."
"He never turned anybody away," DeTillio said. "A lot of Cuban refugees would come to the station, and he wouldn't hesitate to have one of the DJs go on the air to place those people into jobs and homes."
Mr. Harvey was 10 years old when he came to Tampa from Chicago with his parents. He grew up in the area and graduated from Plant High School in 1959.
He went on to receive his degree in journalism and psychology at Washington & Lee University and began his broadcasting career in television sales at WFGA-TV in Jacksonville.
In 1969, he moved back to Tampa to join the sales staff of WFLA-Ch. 8, where his father was general manager.
He left WFLA in 1982 to became local sales manager of WFTS-Ch. 28. He later became regional sales manager and vice president of radio operations.
He left WFTS when the station was sold.
"George was a unique person in that he came from a broadcasting family," DeTillio said. "He wanted to make the station (WQBN) a household name."
"He knew what he was doing in the radio station. At the same time, he made you feel like a friend and a person you could talk to if you had any problems," Vasquez said.
"He was a great man."
Mr. Harvey was a former chairman of the Salvation Army Advisory Board, former president of the Easter Seal Society, vice president of the Tampa Safety Council, board member of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, and member of Rotary Club of Key West, Tampa Exchange Club, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, Tampa Board of Realtors, Hillsboro Masonic Lodge 25, University Club and the Tampa Yacht and Country Club. He also served in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Survivors include his parents, George W. Sr. and Elizabeth Drake; a brother, John William; and several nieces and cousins.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. today at Hyde Park Presbyterian Church, 1309 Swann Ave. Curry & Son Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Hospice of Hillsborough, 3010 Azeele St., Tampa 33609.