A wonderful heart to heart talk with my dear friend Skip Finley on his incredible book, Whaling Captains of Color: America’s First Meritocracy and a wide variety of other topics across the spectrum. Skip is an American original and beacon of wisdom.

The weekly Oak Bluffs Town columnist for The Vineyard Gazette from June 2012 to June 2017, Skip Finley is a retired broadcaster who has written for, been featured in, or quoted in most media industry trade publications.

Skip built his career in radio, becoming a well-known executive and station owner. He served as Vice Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters and Chairman of the Radio Advertising Bureau. He served on virtually all broadcasting industry boards of directors, and on their executive committees.

Skip’s career in media since 1971 included responsibility for 44 radio stations (5 that he owned) encompassing 18 markets. His experience includes successes with radio networks, syndicated programs, formats and a satellite channel.

Having attempted to retire since age 50, he keeps returning to communications, currently as Director of Sales and Marketing for The Vineyard Gazette Media Group on Martha’s Vineyard, where he summered since 1955 and has lived since 1999, deciding to become a writer.

Skip has written articles for The Vineyard Gazette, Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, Island Weddings Magazine, The Provincetown Banner, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum publications, The Intelligencer and MVM Quarterly, Sea History Magazine and Cape Cod & The Islands Magazine.

About Whaling Captains of Color: America’s First Meritocracy

Many of the historic houses that decorate Skip Finley’s native Martha’s Vineyard were originally built by whaling captains. Whether in his village of Oak Bluffs, on the Island of Nantucket where whaling burgeoned, or in New Bedford, which became the City of Light thanks to whale oil, these magnificent homes testify to the money made from whaling. In terms of oil, the triangle connecting Martha’s Vineyard to these areas and Eastern Long Island was the Middle East of its day. Whale wealth was astronomical, and endures in the form of land trusts, roads, hotels, docks, businesses, homes, churches and parks. Whaling revenues were invested into railroads and the textile industry. Millions of whales died in the 200-plus-year enterprise, with more than 2,700 ships built for chasing, killing and processing them. Whaling was the first American industry to exhibit any diversity, and the proportion of men of color people who participated was amazingly high. A man got to be captain not because he was white or well connected, but because he knew how to kill a whale. Along the way he would also learn navigation and how to read and write. Whaling presented a tantalizing alternative to mainland life. Working with archival records at whaling museums, in libraries, from private archives and studying hundreds of books and thesis, Finley culls the best stories from the lives of over 50 Whaling Captains of Color to share the story of America’s First Meritocracy.

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