R.I.P.: Gospel DJ 'Tippy' Calloway, 47

Atlanta's gospel community lost a prominent citizen March 2. Leonard "Tippy" Calloway, longtime DJ for WAOK-AM, died in the Hartsfield International Airport parking lot, apparently of natural causes, after returning from a concert in Jackson, Miss. The exact cause of his death is unknown, according to his widow, Jennifer Calloway.

Tippy Calloway manned the 2-6 p.m. shift at WAOK until mid-December, when the station abandoned gospel music for a talk format. He commanded a substantial following on radio and in the community, leading gospel record companies and promoters to solicit his opinion and support on artists and recordings. He also was in demand as a master of ceremonies at gospel events.

"I'm the second-best known in the city. He was the best-known," says Brother Esmond Patterson, a fellow WAOK alumnus who now hosts the 4-6 a.m. "Break o' Day" gospel show on WTGH-AM.

Tippy Calloway's success was no accident, owing to his vigorous efforts to advance gospel music and his role within it. "He would say, 'I'm the best at what I do because I continue to stay abreast of what's new,'" Jennifer Calloway recalls. Her husband's "drive for perfection" led him to actively attend conferences, workshops and other events to enhance his industry acumen, she adds.

Tippy Calloway is also remembered for his warmth and good humor. "He was a happy-go-lucky fellow; he loved everybody that he came in contact with," Patterson says. "When he went to off the air every day, he'd say, 'If you don't love me, it's all right. I love you anyhow.'"

"He was a happy person," Jennifer Calloway says, "and walked around with an air of, 'I want you to be happy too.'"??