Tom Draper, owner of Salisbury, Md. CBS affiliate WBOC died Thursday night after a morning biking accident — just days after celebrating his 50 years in broadcasting.
Draper, 76, was hit by a pick-up truck while biking near his Delaware home, according to WBOC. He underwent surgery at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore but did not survive the night.
“There are no words to express the profound grief the WBOC family feels at this time,” said Craig Jahelka, president of Draper Media. “Tom was a broadcast pioneer, who said often those of us at WBOC have a moral obligation to serve the people of Delmarva. Our thoughts and prayers are now with his family.”
On Sunday, Draper celebrated his 50th anniversary in broadcasting, a career that started with his purchase of a radio station in 1967. WBOC was the first TV station Draper bought, and, while he bought several others over time, it is the only one he ultimately kept, the station said.
Draper, however, expanded his operation to include Fox and Antenna TV affiliates on WBOC subchannels. He also launched a separate digital division, and in 2015 returned to radio with the purchase of WBOC(FM).
Draper was preparing to announce the launch a new television station, Telemundo Delmarva, Jahelka said.
“Tom wanted to serve the people of Delmarva with high quality news and information,” said Jahelka. “He and his family continually poured money back into the station. And that passion was rewarded as WBOC(TV) grew to become one of the most dominant local stations in the nation.
“He was one of the few remaining single, independent owners nationwide who truly cared about his viewers and community and invested in WBOC. It’s why WBOC is the smallest market station in the country to fly a news gathering helicopter, operate three bureaus, produce both local news and a daily local talk show as well as a local outdoors show, and broadcast from a multimillion dollar NewsPlex,” he said.
Laura Baker, Draper Holdings COO, said Draper’s children will assume WBOC, and will form a new board of directors for the company.
“Tom was adamant that WBOC live on past him,” said Baker. “Although we are a private company, he did have a Board of Directors and made sure all four of his kids knew about the business. All of them have worked at WBOC over the years, and they share his dedication.”