WBOC owner Tom Draper dies after bicycle crash

Thomas H. Draper (Photo: WBOC)

MILFORD, DELAWARE (9/8/2017) WBOC owner Tom Draper died early today of injuries from a bicycle crash east of Milford on Thursday, the Delaware State Police and the television station announced.

Draper, 76, was bicycling east on Slaughter Beach Road in the area of Wells Road about 7:36 a.m. when he was struck by an eastbound 2013 Ford F-150 pickup truck. He had bicycled in the area near his home every day.

Draper was first taken by ambulance to Bayhealth Milford Memorial Hospital, then airlifted to Baltimore Shock Trauma. He died at 2:37 a.m. today.

The driver of the pickup, Shawn E. Armstrong, 37, of Lewes, stopped at the scene and called 911. He was not injured.

“Drug and alcohol use do not appear to be a factor in this case. No charges have been filed at this time,”  Master Cpl. Gary Fournier said.

The road was closed about three hours as police investigated.

“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.”

Thomas Henry Draper was born in Milford on Aug. 18, 1951, and was raised in the area.

He had just celebrated his 50th year in broadcasting on Sunday. Draper bought his first radio station, WTHD, in Milford in 1967. The station’s callsign included his initials. He later added WAFL-FM in Milford but sold both stations after he and a group of investors purchased WBOC-TV in Salisbury, Maryland, in 1980. He also bought and sold TV stations in Kansas and Texas.

WBOC-TV, which serves a large area on the Delmarva Peninsula, added a Dover newsroom in 1986. The company added the Fox 21 sub-channel in Salisbury in 2003 and WBOC-FM on 102.5 in 2015. The TV station also has an Antenna TV sub-channel.

Draper was a staunch Republican and gave time and money to conservative causes and candidates.

“I have been so honored to work for Tom. He was not only our leader, but he was also our friend” said Laura Baker, Chief Operating Officer of Draper Holdings, parent company of WBOC-TV. “Many people know him as the owner of WBOC, but he was
also passionate about farming and land preservation. He was unique in that way— owning farms and broadcast stations.”

Baker said his legacy will live on through his children, who with others, form the board of directors for Draper Holdings.

“Tom was adamant that WBOC live on past him,” says 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.”

Baker said daughters Molly Draper Russell and Mariah Calgione both worked in news; Bill Draper worked in creative services and Hank Draper worked in sales. Russell is now co-president of Draper Holdings and chairman of the board.  Hank Draper is a vice-president of Loblolly, L.L.C, the farming and land division of the company.