HISTORY OF W5 CALL SIGNS, CONTINUED 1947 TO PRESENT

At the end of 1947, the RAC was still continuing to show K call licensees at the end of each listing, rather than intermingling the W and K alphabetically. This changed in 1948. W1SLZ, W3WVK, W4YZS, and W7UUN appear to be among the last systemmatic assignments of "virgin" W call signs in the four districts that still had not run the table. The 4th district was to later take a spurt in growth of amateur radio operators, but the 1st, 3rd, and 7th would continue being the laggards on up into the development of the WA series of prefixes in the late 1950's and the early 1960's. It was possible for newly license hams to get a recycled W call or a brand new K call right off the shelf in these three districts as late as 1965, at a time when WB prefixes were coming out in the 2nd and 6th districts, and WA prefixes everywhere else.

W5PCV REACHED IN 1948

By late 1948, another YL (young lady), Henrietta Moore, of El Paso, had the most recent license grant in the 5th district, W5PCV. By that time, systemmatic issuance of K calls was getting underway elsewhere. The most recent issuances, by district, were W1RPZ, K2BA, W3WVK, W4ZZA, K6AH, W7ZZZ, W8ZZZ, K9AAY, and W0ZZW. Hawaii received the H second letter, and Alaska the L second letter in their K calls. It is pretty clear that during 1948, many of the earlier W calls were being reissued. Novice licenses, when they were initially thought up, also did not last very long, just a year or two. Those who did not upgrade lost their calls, and they were available for somebody else. It's clear that large numbers of newly license hams received recycled W call signs during 1948 and possibly some of these were calls that had been held by multiple persons previously. This is the trend that continues to this day.

Prior to World War II, there had been a handful of K5's assigned to the Canal Zone. Those assigned in 1941 were K5AA through K5AZ. This was in keeping with the FCC's illusion that offshore territories were part of the nearest FCC district (we cannout account for why Philippines was KA1). Guam, Hawaii, and Wake had K6, Alaska K7, Puerto Rico K4, and Virgin Islands K4 and KB4 (another enigma). Evidently the call signs were modified during World War II, when licenses came up for renewal. Even though stations were silenced during the war, operators still had to renew their 3-year licenses as normal. Alaska became KL7, Hawaii KH6, Canal Zone KZ5, Puerto Rico KP4, and so forth. Once novices began getting "N" calls elsewhere after 1951, novices in the "territories" were treated differently, often with temporary "W" prefixes instead of K. In those days, the novice license was only good for a year.

By the end of 1948, there were 103 Canal Zone ham KZ5 calls, all with two letter suffixes, still mostly in the AA-FZ group, but with a few peppered across the rest of the alphabet.

W5QQC had been systemmatically reached by the end of 1949, with a few odd random assignments of three letter suffix calls evident on down the alphabet. W5T-- assignments were reached in 1951, and during 1953 the rest of the alphabet, including W5Y-- and W5Z (but omitting X). During 1954, the FCC began picking up vacant call signs between W5AAA and W5FZZ, and the rest of the alphabet was searched out during 1955.

After 1951, the "N" in the novice call sign helped determine which calls had been reissued. It would appear for a year, then be dropped once the ham upgraded. W5ABI and W5ABJ were examples of recycled calls in the 1950's, with novice assignments peppered through the RAC listings all the way down to W5EUQ in early 1954. In California by then, K calls from K6AAA through K6EZZ ware already used up while the 5th district was still issuing W5 calls. In the 2nd district, which by now had been realigned to include only New York and New Jersey, K2IRD was the newest issuance in the Fall 1954 RAC. The other districts, like the 5th, were still recycling W call signs.

Evidently the last "virgin" W5 call signs dated from 1953, and a first round of recycled W5 call signs occurred in 1955. The issuance of K5 calls began in earnest in 1956. It took four years to move through this new block of calls.

K5SQT ASSIGNED DURING 1958 BUT MANY EARLIER K5 CALLS REASSIGNED AS LATE AS 1961

The Winter 1958 RAC showed all districts had finally moved into systemmatic issuance of new K call signs. The 2nd and 6th had already zoomed through the first time, and the 4th had just run the table at the end of the year. KN1EKW, KN3EZZ, K5SQT, K7FEZ, K8MOS, KN9PMG, and K0RTA were some of the most recent at that time in those districts that still had new K calls to give out.

As always seemed to be the case, some calls had been issued out of sequence, presumably by special request, and not necessarily part of a sequential roll out. Then, as now, some of the newly assigned went to novices, and had the N dropped later. Others went to new general licensees, who had opted to pass all elements at the same time and forego the novice period. And, as before, hams who moved from one call district to another during the 50's were still being forced to make a change unless they could qualify for dual residency and receive a second station call under their primary operators license.

So, as 1958 got underway, K calls in the 5th district still had 7 letters of the alphabet left to go, or roughly 4,000 new hams and move ins from other districts to go for 1959. As the available "virgin" K assignments began to get short, the FCC once again had resorted to recycling of expired calls. Another pass through the K pool of vacant calls was started during 1958. There were reports of a second round of vacant W call signs once again being reassigned as late as 1960, along with some previously vacated "K's. The trip through the available K calls was much more systemmatic. Available recycled K5's were reassigned to new hams all during 1961. This resulted in the oddity new licensees in 1961 receiving an "early K" call sign, while later K calls farther down the alphabet dated from three-five years earlier.

HAMS FIRST LICENSED IN 1961 COULD RECEIVE MIXED UP K5, W5, OR WA5 ASSIGNMENTS

During 1961, though a newly block of WA5 call signs was opened up, and WA5AAA through WA5EZZ were consumed during the first 12 months. New hams licensed early in 1961 could get a W, a K, or a WA call, depending on the luck of the draw.

By 1962, though, the FCC had stopped recycling earlier calls, and was working only the WA field systemmatically. WA5AAA-WA5FZZ were gone by the start of 1963. When the WA5's through ZZZ were gone, the WB5 series started. There were few reports of any earlier W5 or K5 calls being recycled during the 1960s and early 1970's. There were believed to be very few, if any, recycled WA5 call signs. Once again, new hams received new "virgin" calls, not hand me downs from someone who had failed for whatever reason to renew. As far as we know, the WA, WB, WD, and subsequent blocks have never been recycled systemmatically. Reissued calls may exist under the vanity program though.


For a short time in the late 1950's, when the WA blocks were opened up in the call-starved 2nd, 6th, and 9th districts, "WV" prefixes were assigned to novices. This was presumably to avoid any confusion with "W" calls that were also being recycled to novices with "N" indicators. Since there was no overlap in the 5th district, the V was not used, and all novices received either a "KN5" or a "WN5," as needed. Now there were four possibilities with the same three letter suffixes in the 5th, as for example, W5BBB, K5BBB, WA5BBB, and WB5BBB.

In the 1970's, the WD5 series was introduced for general issuance, and even a few WC5 before the Commission changed its mind. For a while, WR5 calls were issued to repeater owners, but the Commission rescinded those grants later on, and turned over the policing of repeaters to civilian volunteer frequency coordinators. The use of older "counterpart" calls for hams moving from other districts stopped around 1977. Also, because of bribery being detected at the FCC's amateur radio branch, by hams giving "pay for play" for preferred call signs, the re-assignment of older vacant calls pretty much came to a screeching halt. One could still change to a higher class of call by upgrading a license, but it would be from a newly opened group, not based upon personal preference. Most advanced class licensees during this period were handed 2x2 licenses, such as KA5AA. The reactivated Adbance'd class consumed about half of the 2x2 series from group B until the new advanced class licenses stopped being issued. Now group B systemmatic assignments from the old 2x2 K block have stopped. Today, extra class licenses are in the 2x2 AA-AG block, and unless some newly opened Group A areas are found for extras in the future, it is likely that at some point extra class licensees will begin receiving group B calls from where the old advanced licenses left off,

By the 1980's, incentive licensing demands on the call sign base were in full swing, and one by two calls (1x2) with two-letter suffixes and K5 or W5 prefixes were in short supply. Additional blocks of N5 and AA5-AZ5 prefixes were opened up to satisfy demand, and eventually WA-WZ5 and KA-KZ5 "short calls" were introduced. The N5AAA-N5ZZZ group was issued out to general class and technician licenseees, and for the first time, the X block was not skipped.

After the tables had been run on "N5" call signs, a new pattern developed of KA5, KB5, etc., and has now reached about half way through the alphabet. Big changes were to come by 1993, however, in the form of the "vanity" licensing program. Anybody could pick a desired call of the correct class, just by paying a fee and requesting it.

We shall see how this developed even further in the 1990's and 2000's, and what impact it had on the pool of old W call signs:

DISTRIBUTION OF "1X3" W5 CALL SIGNS TODAY

As noted earlier, there are 676 W5 two letter call signs in use, all of them highly sought after and treasured by their extra class "group A" licensees since at least 1993 or earlier. But what about the other 6,035 W5 call sign holders today? Here are the groupings by number of licensees and by the first letter of the alphabet.

W5AAA-W5AZZ - Originally issued 1928 - 306 current holders - Some used before 1928 without the "W" prefix
W5BAA-W5BZZ - Originally issued 1929 - 271 current holders
W5CAA-W5CZZ - Originally issued 1930 - 304 current holders
W5DAA-W5DZZ - Originally issued 1931-1932 - 328 current holders - second most popular letter today
W5EAA-W5EZZ - Originally issued 1933-1934 - 244 current holders
W5FAA-W5FZZ - Originally issued 1935-1936 - 197 current holders - Unused A-F calls systemmatically reissued 1954
W5GAA-W5GZZ - Originally issued 1937 - 246 current holders
W5HAA-W5HZZ - Originally issued 1938 - 212 current holders
W5IAA-W5IZZ - Originally issued 1939 - 173 current holders
W5JAA-W5JZZ - Originally issued 1940 - 305 current holders
W5KAA-K5KZZ - Originally issued 1941-1945 - 225 current holders
W5LAA-W5LZZ - Originally issued 1945 - 244 current holders
W5MAA-W5MZZ - Originally issued 1946 - 281 current holders
W5NAA-WFNZZ - Originally issued 1947 - 197 current holders
W5OAA-W5OZZ - Originally issued 1948 - 190 current holders
W5PAA-W5PZZ - Originally issued 1948 - 228 current holders
W5QAA-W5QZZ - Originally issued 1949 - 139 current holders
W5RAA-W5RZZ- Originally issued 1949 - 356 current holders - most popular letter today
W5SAA-W5SZZ - Originally issued 1950 - 287 current holders
W5TAA-W5TZZ - Originally issued 1951 - 327 current holders third most popular letter
W5UAA-W5UZZ - Originally issued 1952 - 215 current holders
W5VAA-W5VZZ - Originally issued 1952 - 238 current holders
W5WAA-W5WZZ - Originally issued 1953 - 229 current holders
W5XAA-W5XZZ - "Experimental" Not issued except since 1977 as incentive or 1993 as personalized - 49 current
W5YAA-W5YZZ - "Club" or systemmatically issued late 1954-1955 - 111 current holders
W5ZAA-W5ZZZ - Originally issued 1953-1954 - 123 current holders - least popular "regularly assigned" letter

Most unused calls in the W5G-- through W5WZZ group were systemmatically reassigned in 1955, often to novices. Between 1955 and 1960 there continued to be random reassignments, probably most were to counterpart hams who moved in from other districts. But there were reports of new hams receiving W5 call signs right out of the box as late as 1961.

Since 1961 there have been no regular systemmatic assignments of W5 calls to new hams. Today W5's are considered by the FCC to be in group C, along with K5--- and N5--- 1x3 call signs. The current scheme of incentive license class groups was set up around 1977. Those later adds who received W5 calls either received them randomly when they "upgraded" call signs under the "windows" of opportunity in the 1970's, or they have applied for them specifically since 1993 as a personalized call.

An example of a 1937 licensee who survives today is Mr. Paul Elliott of New Mexico, mentioned earlier. He gave up his original call sign for a "vanity" call later in his life, and as of 2017 as W5DM is probably the longest continuously licensed "W5" amateur operator. Sadly, most of his comtempraries are now silent keys (SK).

Bert Wells, W5JNK, is an "Old Old Timer" from Dallas and has published the Spark Gap News in the past. He is the OM of W5ZUT. He is one who kept his same W5 call sign after moving to Texas and did not go for a vanity call later on. He may hold a record of some sort, we don't know, since he was previously licensed as a W9 before moving.

A very few other survivors may still hold original calls that they obtained between 1940 and 1953. With the current ten year license term, nowever, it is quite possible that a ham showing a current license may in fact be deceased with the license still active. The FCC will not cancel a license automatically until it expires, even after death of the holder.

An example was W5ZRG, Joe Caldwell of Lubbock, Texas, originally of Alabama. Mr. Caldwell passed away on March 27, 2016 at age 89, just a month or so after his name showed up as an active licensee on this list in January 2016. His license cancelled in August, 2016. He was a navy veteran who served on the USS Chicago in the Pacific during World War II, an Emory University graduate, and spent 40 years in the insurance industry. He would have received his W5 FCC amateur call at around the age of 26, and evidently held it for 63 years. It is possible that he could have had a W4 or other radio district call prior to moving to Texas.

There may still be quite a few still active 90+ year old original holders in the group of calls assigned originally in the post world war II period. Michael M. Spann, W5IMF, was licensed at age 14, prior to World War II. He passed away October 21, 2014. He was one of the longest of any of the original W5's that we have found so far. Another recent departure was Bruce Harris, W5HCS, who passed away at age 92 on November 3, 2015. According to his family, he became a radio amateur at age 14! He served in the Army Signal Corps during World War II. While W5HCS may not have been his original call, it would have been appropriate for the time period during which he was first licensed.

W5ZZO, Jerry D. Hapttonstall, died in 2013 at the age of 81. He had been a telegraph operator for the Texas and Pacific Railroad ( a predecessor of today's Union Pacific), later worked for NASA, and eventually retired to Fayetteville, Arkansas. W5ZZM, Jack L. Elliott of McGehee and Little Rock, Arkansas, was a Navy pilot during World War II, born in 1926, and also passed away in 2013. W5ZZA, John J. Wallace of Little Rock is believed to be living today, as may be Auston E. Curtis, W5ZYY, of Iuka, Mississippi (Houston, Texas in the original callbook listing), the latter being 92+ years of age.

While it may be that some of the call signs still active today have been reassigned to "Jr.'s" with the same or very similar name, it seems that in January 2017 there were still 25 call signs in the "W5Z" block that were close enough to still cause a belief that they may still be assigned to the original 1953 holder. It is not known for sure how many of these individuals are still living today. An example is W5ZUT, Nadine, who was a novice in 1954, with the same name yet in 2017. The (x)YL of Bert. Besides these 40, there are at least three others in the "W5Z" block that apparently are now licensed to family members with the same surname. Hopefully we can look at some of the other earlier blocks later to make similar comparative studies.

A couple of interesting former club calls turned up in the "Z" block. W5ZEA originally was licensed to Southeastern University of Louisiana. W5ZM originally belonged to the New Mexico Military Institute. It is in private hands today.

We have not had a chance to extend the search back farther for still-licensed original holders of W5W-- and earlier call signs. But the ages of the holders of the W5Z-- original calls have been determined to have been between 77 and 95.
Obviously, the youngest of the original holders would have had to have been 14 or younger when first licensed. There are stories of amateurs having been licensed as young as age 5!

As we update this page in February 2017, the most recent call signs issued in the "5th district" are as follows:

Group A - AG5IP
Group B - KM5ZK - No longer being systemmatically issued except to Advanced class changes
Group C - 1x3 calls with K, N, W prefix - No longer being systemmatically issued
Group D - KG5RLL

There are still no systemmatic issuances of group C. It is likely the FCC never will do so, as their automated systems cannot as easily pick through the vacant combinations as with the "virgin" blocks in Group D. But, any new amateur, whether technician or general class, may choose a vanity call from group C or D. Extra class licensees and clubs with an extra class trustee may pick an available call from any group. There are currently 1,381 club call signs in the 5th radio district.

Here are the number of individually licensed amateur operators by state of the 5th radio district as of early February 2017. Due to coastal erosion, climate change, sales tax increases, and the poor economy in Louisiana, it's rankings continue to slip, running counter to the trends in other states of the district: Since the elimination of the code requirementin 2007, its ham population has actually declined by 8%. The numbers here are those still active, but do not include the last two years, which have expired, but could still possibly be renewed.


Texas - 52,228
Oklahoma - 9,830
Arkansas - 7,952
New Mexico - 6,642
Louisiana - 6,270
Mississippi - 5,551

Updated 2 February 2017
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