VARC is one of the oldest amateur radio clubs in Mississippi which has over 5,500 licensed hams across the state. We are proud to call the longest-serving ARRL Section Manager (SM) in the U.S., Malcolm Keown W5XX, one of our members. Think of an SM as a statewide team captain for ham radio. His service to the hobby sets a standard for VARC and other clubs across the nation. We’ve been around for a long time but we decidedly have our feet planted looking toward the future in amateur radio.
The Club has adopted a new, modern slogan to characterize its mission: Radioactive on the Mississippi River. We plan activities and programs to reflect this slogan.
The VARC has previously held the distinction among ARRL-affiliated groups of being a Special Services Club. The ARRL defines this status as follows: A club that exists to go above and beyond for their communities and for Amateur Radio is what defines a Special Service Club (SSC). They are the leaders in their Amateur Radio communities who provide active training classes, publicity programs and actively pursue technical projects and operating activities. A goal of the current slate of officers is to meet the criteria to again hold that ARRL distinction.
A new set of officers was elected in late 2022, headlined by the new President, Chris Dunn AF5OQ, of Port Gibson, MS. He says on behalf of this new leadership team, “I am honored to serve the Vicksburg Amateur Radio Club as President. We have a lot of activity in this two-state area with ham radio but that means there is much work to do. The officers need your help so participate in our upcoming activities, invite hams to attend our meetings and enjoy our educational presentations whether it’s in person or on our new Youtube Channel, and volunteer to help make the Vicksburg Club as “radio active” as it can be!” Chris is good on QRZed.
Scott Larson W5VMS is now Vice President. Drew Bottemiller KG5OVR is the Secretary-Treasurer for VARC.
Our newly revised Bylaws are available in PDF form here.
For members, VARC call sign badges are now available from The SignMan of Baton Rouge. The Vicksburg Amateur Radio Club has a custom order page at https://thesignman.com/clubs/vicksburgarccart.html. Order yours today if you are a member.
Some History of VARC
This city on the bluffs of the Mississippi River has a deep history in amateur radio. From the earliest periods of ham radio, operators calling Vicksburg home have sent RF signals into the air. Here is a gallery of some of those operators. And, yes, there was an active CB radio club monitoring those channels, too. Some no doubt became licensed amateur radio operators. There is a gallery of pictures illustrating some of these early amateur operators from Vicksburg Mississippi below.
The Vicksburg Amateur Radio Club has been affiliated with Skywarn since 1979, and is the oldest affiliated group in Mississippi. Believed to have been organized prior to World War II, there are no written records documenting club activities prior to 1965, the earliest date for which records have been found. The club repeater, K5ZRO, is a vanity call originally held by club charter member, Laimon L. Lamb, pictured here. The current podium used in monthly VARC meetings is the original one built for the club.
The Club has been home to Malcolm Keown W5XX, the longest-serving Section Manager in the American Radio Relay League, for several decades. Mal has made it to the top of the DXCC Honor Roll and is a standard for serving others through the amateur radio hobby and the ARRL.
A previous member, Russ Tillman K5NRK, served as Editor of the AMSAT Journal, and a leader in satellite communications. Along with current long-time member, Eddie Pettis N5JGK, they taught numerous hams the art and science of talking to the ‘birds.
While steeped in the traditions established by these prominent members and others, the Vicksburg Amateur Radio Club is committed to trying new technologies and approaches to the hobby of amateur radio. This includes the clear and committed outreach to those who have not participated in amateur radio as much as others. What our members tend to hold in common is a sincere desire to encourage and help others who would like to get started with radio. This involves trying new things, keeping participation enjoyable, and serving the larger community, state, nation and world through the practice of the amateur radio service, and giving license exams when prospective hams are ready.
We maintain a strong emergency communications stance for the Vicksburg area, including southern areas in Louisiana and eastward to the capital city of Jackson. VARC participates in the Miss-Lou Emergency Net regularly. We collaborate with MS Emergency Management Agency’s RACES activities when called upon. The recent disasters of Hurricane Katrina, Maria and other tornado or flooding events have left a clear imprint the the ever-present need for emergency communication. Our daily Nets, such as the MS Section Phone Net, often managed by Malcolm W5XX, are constant practice and training for the day when it’s critical. Customary communication channels may be cut off for extended periods following such an event. Family members in the United States waited days to weeks before they were able to communicate with relatives in Puerto Rico. Even then communication was often second hand through passed “traffic” messages regarding well-being. Common events such as public service communications for charity bike and running races require our assistance as police agencies simply do not have the time or budget to serve such events as they may have decades ago. Ham operators can also serve their communities in other ways, monitoring and reporting during severe weather conditions and providing communications support for public events.
We work with area clubs on common events, such as annual Field Day and the Capital City Ham Fest held in Jackson during January each year. Our members “do stuff” and stay in touch with others. And we are there when there is trouble or a disaster or even just a bike race. For over a century now, we’ve been on the air, radio active on the Mississippi River. Come join us!