Industry News

Tributes to Steve Swanson

The Christian Radio & Records industry mourns the loss of longtime WAFJ/Augusta programmer Steve Swanson. but what great memories we had through the years! Steve was GM at WAFJ/Augusta for 14 years, and retired from WAFJ in 2021. He was with Radio Training Network for 11 years and prior to that at The Joy FM/Tampa. Steve Swanson was 68. He passed away Sunday night (3/17/24) with his family by his side.

Jim Campbell RTN Founder – “It was my pleasure to work with Steve Swanson for 25 years.. he was one of the most faithful radio people I’ve ever been around. His love for Christ and leadership will be missed by all.”

Dave Cruse The JOY FM/Tampa – “My first trip to GMA week in Nashville was around 1989. I drive in to town as a rookie Music Director for a small station north of Baton Rouge. I didn’t know a single other radio person there and was a little overwhelmed. I met Steve in the hallway waiting to do some interviews and made me feel welcomed into the fellowship of Christian broadcaster and made it a point to introduce me to others and throughout the conference he checked to make sure I was good. A year later, I was back for GMA week and the first person to spot me and call me by name was Steve Swanson. A few years later I was blessed to join Steve at The JOY FM. He was a great friend and co-worker, a man of deep faith and I will miss him greatly until we meet again on streets of gold.”

April Sather WAFJ/Augusta – “To know Steve was to love him from the moment you first met him. For me, it was when I got off the plane in Augusta, GA and was being considered for the Morning Show on 88.3 WAFJ. He greeted me with a warm smile and hug. From that point on, he became my mentor and cheerleader. He often messaged me before my shift to tell me I was being thought of and prayed for. As a friend, he made you feel valued because he genuinly cared about you. Whenever he and Susie were off on their next adventure I would ask how I could pray them and he would respond, “Please pray that we can love and encourage the folks we interact with.” He embodied loving others like Jesus in a beautiful way. It’s been a gift to have him in my life.”

Mark Giles WIZB/Dothan – “Steve made his first impression on me at a Brad BURKHARDT seminar in Atlanta. Steve went out of his way to introduce himself and try to make me feel welcome. As I got to know him better, it became obvious that he loved God, and loved people. Humanly speaking, I probably would not be doing what I’m doing today if it weren’t for Steve’s influence. He was a Giant in the service of Jesus, and the legacy he leaves behind is a testimony to his heart and life lived.”

Kevin Davis KXOJ/Tulsa – “4 years ago this week, Steve Swanson was in the process of hiring me at 88.3 WAFJ in Augusta, GA. Anyone in the Christian radio and Christian music industry knows what a wonderful Godly man he was. He lived to serve and love others just as Jesus did. His long-time RTN colleague and my good friend Andy Haynes had recommended me for the WAFJ position. Andy told me that I’d never have a better boss. Boy, was he right about that! Steve and Susie instantly made me feel welcomed, loved and like family. I was his final hire; he retired at the end of the year. OI enjoyed every second of working for Steve. I am a much better man because of it. But his retirement did not stop us from keeping in touch. Steve was always there with a kind word of encouragement, or just something to make me laugh and brighten my day. A few days ago I found out that he was suffering with pancreatic cancer. Then I learned late Sunday that he is no longer suffering. He is now eternally healed, and with Jesus. I want to be more like Steve Swanson on this side of heaven. One more thing, when I think of Steve entering Heaven, his life truly reflected awaiting to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant”

Bill Scott Vidare Creative – “Steve, was an awesome man who demonstrated love to everyone around him. I often would hear from Steve asking how can could pray for me or that he was praying for me. I knew Steve for about 35 years and I’m a better man because of it. His contribution to Christian radio was HUGE. I’ll always remember Steve and the Christ like example he was to so many. Miss you Steve.”

John Owens WMIT/Asheville – “My favorite Steve Swanson memory was the time I called him when I was the manager at WMHK in Columbia, SC, and asked how he might feel if we brought both of our radio teams together for a day to hang out, hear from someone to encourage our teams, grab a meal together, etc. He said, absolutely! So, he shut down his station in Augusta, GA, one day and drove over the Columbia. Our teams had an amazing day together. Steve was the real deal. He loved and cared deeply. Well done brother…well done, you finished strong.”

Doug Hannah Christian FM – I’m sad today because Christian radio has lost one of our best encouragers. Since getting to know him back in the day in Illinois, Steve Swanson sure encouraged me, on many occasions. You will hear many stories in the next few days of how Steve stepped forward, unexpectedly, and encouraged people in their moment of trial, or congratulated them in their moment of triumph. May we who are still here fill in that gap, and keep encouraging one another in the Lord.”

Jen Allen Curb Word – “There are few people in this world that all the good adjectives apply to but Steve Swanson was undoubtedly one of those people. I have never heard any negative adjective directed towards Steve but the words you would hear are kind, loving, supportive, sincere, generous, encouraging, patience; kindhearted, and the list could go on. Steve never knew a stranger. He was a joyous man who was always quick to give you a smile and a bear hug. The moment he met you was the moment that he became your friend, and one that truly cared. When Steve asked, “how are you doing?,” he meant it. He wanted to hear how you were actually doing…not the typical, “I’m doing good,” answer that we automatically give whether it’s true or not. He wanted to know all the details – good or bad – and he truly cared about both.

Steve absolutely adored his family. He loved being a husband, a father and a grandfather. He loved talking about his family and he absolutely loved his wife, Susie. When he looked at her you could see the twinkle in his eye; he doted over Susie. They were the cutest couple and were always loving toward each other, and rarely did you see one without the other. He had a love for her that is rare these days but it was an example to us all. He pleasured in talking about his children and that bright smile would light up when talking about his grandchildren. Steve also loved Jesus. He lived his life in a manner that showed everyone around him just how much he loved Jesus. He exemplified “love one another,” and he was always eager to share what Jesus was doing in his life and eager to spread that love towards others. He believed wholeheartedly in the saving grace of Jesus’ love and was always an example of that love.

There are only a few people in this world that leave a huge gaping hole when they depart. The amount of people that were impacted by Steve’s friendship are too many to name or count, but if you had the pleasure of knowing him you were most definitely impacted by him, and you just knew that he was in your corner rooting for you. It’s a blessing and a comfort to know that we’ll see him again one day and that in the heavenly realm he is completely healed, but for this moment, here on earth, we are left with a huge gaping hole.

John Bryant WAFJ/Augusta – “Steve and I worked together for fourteen years. The Lord sent him to WAFJ at a time when we needed his leadership, and I’m deeply grateful for his imprint on this ministry. He was a kind man who truly cared about others. As he passed the torch to me upon his retirement, his words of wisdom were “Be interruptible.” Steve believed that one of the best gifts you could give to others is the gift of time. He practiced that well.”

Kenny Rodgers Capitol Christian Music Group – “I am so thankful to have had the chance to call Steve a friend.  I learned many things from Steve over the years and would often use my weekly call times with him to soak up all the knowledge I could learn.  On one particular day when I was probably overeager to share about a song I was working, with the honesty and patience in his voice Steve replied, “your urgency doesn’t make my priority.”  As an up and comer I took offense to this in the moment, but more than ten years later I often catch myself thinking through this sentiment when others are pressing for something from me.  That soundbite was someone with experience sharing his wisdom, and that is something Steve loved to do.  He and Sue loved to travel, always taking incredible trips that he’d surely end up capturing countless beautiful photos on.  When asking him how he always pulled off such grand adventures he simply shared, “prayer and planning.” It was just who he was.  When my wife and I were planning our trip to Ireland Steve was one of my first calls, to ask for all the advice he could share and any expertise I could learn because I knew he would give me the time and share more wisdom.  I have been so comforted in the grief of today by seeing countless posts of admiration, love, thankfulness and appreciation for who Steve was and for who he helped us all strive to be through his friendship.”

2 thoughts on “Tributes to Steve Swanson

  • The news hit us hard this morning. Since the diagnosis, we’d been praying with Susie and many of you, Steve’s friends. (Yes, he had many, and he rarely forgot a name!) It seems too short. Diagnosis to the end of the line was a matter of weeks, and Steve was a man of years when it came to his relationships. We worked together in the ’90s and early 2000s at The JOY FM. His leaving didn’t dim the friendship, it deepened it. Steve knew what mattered. Professionalism mattered. Product mattered. But more than these, people mattered. That’s what I learned from Steve. I’m glad he was with the most important people at the end, and now he’s with the most important Person. Some of his last words may be his most impactful. “Let’s go. . .I’m ready.” We weren’t, Steve, but once again, you’re pointing us to Jesus, pointing the way home.

    • Meeting Steve is one of a handful of distinct memories I have from attending Brad Burkhardt’s conference. Steve came right over during an early break, wanting to hear more of my story of quitting my job in secular radio just in time to be able to make that event in a genre that wasn’t my professional background and where I knew no one.

      Warm, sincere, genuine, and, as others are saying, encouraging…an extraordinary first impression of the format’s leaders.


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