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Radio Owner Bill Dalton Dies at 80

He managed AC format pioneer WASH(FM) in Washington, and formed The Dalton Group

A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 1, in North Naples, Fla. for Bill Dalton. The radio pioneer and entrepreneur passed away this month at age 80.

Dalton began his radio career with Metromedia at WHK(AM) in Cleveland and subsequently worked at WIP(AM) in Philadelphia. In 1968, he went to manage WASH, then a new FM in the Washington, D.C., market, for Metromedia.

Dalton helped popularize FM by bringing in a variety of announcers and adding news, sports and weather, according to his daughter, Diane Dalton Warren, founder of marketer and president of operations of the HD Radio Alliance.

Dalton believed that better on-air programming coupled with quality stereo sound would boost interest in the station and in FM radio generally, according to Warren, who said that by 1969 WASH was able to compete head-to-head with market leader WMAL(AM).

During Dalton’s time at WASH, the industry acknowledged the station as a pioneer of the adult contemporary format. He was able to parlay his success in Washington to become general manager with Metromedia KLAC(AM) in Los Angeles and other Metromedia stations. He also headed broadcast operations for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Bill and his wife Susan formed The Dalton Group in 1981 with the purchase of their first station in the Washington area, WXTR(AM/FM). The company developed the oldies station from a suburban outlet to one seen as serving the Washington metro area.

His daughter Diane Warren says she was tutored by many in radio but that her passion and talents come from her father. “I will forever be grateful that we shared the radio business, which brought him joy, success and many, many incredible friendships. I will miss him but his legacy lives on in me and so many others.”

Bill and Susan expanded their ownership by purchasing WGRR(FM), Cincinnati and WWMG(FM) and WEND(FM), Charlotte, N.C. The business was successful and helped train broadcast managers, executives and entrepreneurs, according to Warren. “His greatest legacy is the amazing ability to create a cohesive, cooperative and collegial atmosphere where people could excel and grow.”

The Daltons retired to North Naples, Fla. and supported several charities there.

Bill Dalton is survived by his wife of 33 years, Susan Louise Dalton and three adult children including: Diane Warren of San Antonio, Texas; Robert Dalton of Atlanta; and John Dalton of Knoxville, Tenn. He is also survived by seven grandchildren.

The Dec. 1 memorial service will be at 11 a.m. at North Naples United Methodist Church in Naples, Fla. In lieu of flowers, his family would prefer honoring his commitment to Naples with donations to The Garden of Hope and Courage at Naples Community Hospital or The Conservancy of Southwest Florida/The Dalton Discovery Center.