WØBP - June 15, 1959

Boyd 'Beep' Phelps
Edina, MN

QCWA # 957
Chapter 8
WØBP - Boyd 'Beep' Phelps
demonstrating mechanical
television in 1929

Jonathan and Eliza Grimes's youngest daughter, Ella, bore four children: two by her second husband, Dr. Samuel Phelps, and two by her third husband, Fred Eustis. The second of the two Phelps children, Boyd, was born March 29, 1899, in Blunt, South Dakota.

Boyd Phelps' contributions to amateur radio are legendary. His biography in the program for the 1933 World Wide Radio Amateur Convention in Chicago lists his accomplishments up to that time: "Educated at the University of Minnesota (Dept of E.E.), amateur 1911 to date holding calls 2BP, 9ALL, 9ZT, 1HX, 1XAQ, u2EB, W2BP, W2BPP, and W9BP. War Navy operator NAJ, WNA, NSM, and instructor. Now Lieutenant C-V (S), USNR. Short and Ultra-short wave pioneer experimenter; Radio Below 200 Meters 1921, 100 meters 1922, one of first group of three to work across the Atlantic 1923, best DX on 5 meters, first two-way 5 meter code and phone transmissions, first 3/4 meter transmitter and receiver, lowest wave regenerative oscillator, highest precision frequency measurements, first amateur television, etc. Assistant Editor of QST for 1922. Chief Engineer, Research Engineer, or Consulting Engineer 1923 to date with the following companies: Tuska, Grimes, Sleeper, Richardson (Cornell), I.R.T., Freed Eiseman, Press [Priess?] Wireless, Television Manufacturing, Atwater Kent, etc. Holder and licensor of several U.S. and foreign radio patents."

WØBP - Boyd 'Beep' Phelps After several years in New York and Connecticut, Boyd returned to Minneapolis and found his way back to his roots. From 1935 until his untimely death in 1959 he operated Phelps Precision Laboratories from his homes in Morningside. The first house was at 4230 Scott Terrace. In 1939 Boyd and his wife, Alice Louise, built the house at 4232 Scott Terrace where he ran the business and conducted monthly meetings of the Radio Amateur Teletype Society, a.k.a. RATS, for the next twenty years.

Boyd's sense of humor was as celebrated as his technical ability. A 1996 letter from Phil DesJarlais, WØJHS, tells just one of many stories: "During WWII Boyd was stationed in Iceland and was second in command. The commandant was an old Navy man and very straight-laced. One day he called Boyd in and said he heard there was some gambling going on and he wanted it stopped and for Boyd to order a raid that night. Boyd let out the news that a raid was going to be held and in spite of that, two Navy men were caught gambling and were brought up before Boyd for sentencing. He put them on bread and water for two weeks and gave them KP duty. When the commandant heard about it he called Boyd in and said, 'In all my years in the Navy, I never heard of such a thing, putting men on bread and water and then giving them KP duty!'"

Phelps's obituary in the July 1959 edition of RTTY Magazine conveys a glimpse of his popularity:
"One of the most shocking and saddening QSTs in more than forty years of ham radio was just copied on twenty meters - Quote - QST DE W5ANW Houston, Texas. Regret to inform you that Boyd Phelps, WØBP, and Adolph Emerson, WØCMQ, were killed in an auto accident June 15, 1959, near Zimatan, Mexico, while on the way to the ARRL convention.

WØBP - Boyd 'Beep' Phelps "Beep [as Phelps was known to just about everyone], WØBP, was to have given the keynote speech at the RTTY dinner at the National ARRL convention, which starts today, June 19.

"Beep was almost Mr. RTTY himself and most certainly had one of the most outstanding records of accomplishment in ham radio, having received his first ham ticket, 9TT, in 1911 with many, many others in between his currently held ticket, WØBP, and the last call he signed, XEQØP, from Mexico City.

"All who have read Two Hundred Meters and Down realize that Beep made one of the first trans-Atlantic contacts and was awarded the Gold Medal at the Radio Amateur Convention in Chicago in 1933 for most outstanding pioneer development of short waves below 200 meters.

"It is to men like Beep that we owe the advancement of ham radio for, with his work with Hiram Percy Maxim in the ARRL for many years, his tenaciousness in demanding that the rights of the amateur be respected, while his work and foresight in regulatory matters with the FCC have preserved for us the many liberties that we, as ham operators, enjoy today.

"As he lived - he died - thinking of and working with those he loved."

Boyd is survived by his son, Boyd Phelps Jr. (b. Feb. 14, 1924 ), and daughter Winifred (b. May 14, 1926 ).

David Grimes and Boyd Phelps were just two of the 28 grandchildren of Jonathan and Eliza Grimes. The family made many contributions, undoubtedly beyond farming and radio. Their legacy is Morningside, Minnesota, and the accomplishments of the many men and women who are descendants of this remarkable family.

WØBP - Boyd 'Beep' Phelps
The one and only Inverse Duplexed Beepodyne with Beepotrol
built by Boyd Phelps WØBP
Pavek Collection

2010 SNRaymer & Jeanne Andersen

borrowed (stolen) from
Pavek Museum of Broadcasting