Club logo.  A red circle containing a green map of the state of Virginia, the ARRL logo, and the text "Richmond Amateur Telecommunications Society, Richmond, Virginia U.S.A."

Richmond Amateur Telecommunications Society
W4RAT ยท Richmond, Virginia

An ARRL Affiliated Club Serving Central Virginia Since 1972

About RATS

Membership Headcount

Updated April 5, 2024.  These counts do not update in real time.  For official membership counts (such as for quorum determination) refer to the Membership roster in Wild Apricot or contact the RATS Secretary for assistance.  You may also view our ARRL Annual Report here.

Individual Memberships ($35)
94 members
Family Memberships ($55)
3 families with 7 members total
Life Memberships ($0)
8 members
Associate Memberships
0; not currently offered
ARRL Members (self identified)


The following are the purposes and objectives of RATS, as written in our Articles of Incorporation from September 1974:

  • To further the art and science of Amateur Radio;
  • To encourage those interested in electronics and communications to further their knowledge in those fields;
  • To promote the utilization of the higher frequency bands allotted to Amateur Radio, and to explore their practical uses;
  • To voluntarily offer the use of our communications systems and services to any duly authorized agency of the legal governing bodies of this country or their assigns and to the public service.


In 1970 there were very few two-meter repeaters in Virginia. Of these few, only the W4NJE 146.94 repeater served the Richmond area. Unfortunately, there were several rather severe operational limitations on this repeater. One of these was a three minute key down “QSO timer,” with a one minute reset period between QSOs. Also, since W4NJE and his wife were the sole control operators, the repeater was normally shut down between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. With these restrictions, it is no small wonder that, at the time, there were no more than 10-15 amateurs in Richmond enjoying the utility of two-meter repeater operation.

Sometime between the latter part of 1970 and the early part of 1971, the late John Alford, WA4VOS, started toying with the idea of putting his own repeater on the air. John put some GE ProgLine equipment together, and the WA4VOS 146.88 repeater went on the air from Alford’s Radio Communications, then located in the vicinity of Lombardy Street and Overbrook Road. Coverage was very limited due to the antenna being only 80 feet above ground. Shortly after the repeater went on the air, John had two other amateurs, Fred Towers, WB4KXS, and Jerry Williams, WA4GPJ (now KJ4IT), joined him in keeping Richmond’s second repeater on the air. Realizing that some form of infrastructure was needed, these three amateurs decided the time was right to form a group of two-meter enthusiasts in the Richmond area. In February 1972, eight people banded together, and recognizing the unlimited potential for growth and experimentation using repeaters, formed the Richmond Amateur Telecommunications Society. The founders of RATS were:

  • John Alford, WA4VOS (SK), and Sally Talmadge (later Mrs. John Alford)
  • Ralph Spring, WB4WMQ, and Joyce Spring
  • Allan Thorn (then not licensed, ex-WA4ADX, later N4NLQ, SK)
  • Fred Towers, WB4KXS, and Judy Towers (then not licensed, now WA4MSH)
  • Jerry Williams, ex-WA4GPJ, now KJ4IT

The purpose of the group was to provide unlimited access to a fully open repeater 24 hours a day, provide autopatch capability, and above all, put amateur radio into the forefront of emergency communications in the Richmond area. The first officers were: John Alford, President; Jerry Williams, Vice President; Allan Thorn, Treasurer; and Sally Talmadge, Secretary.

One of the first orders of business was to choose a name for the group. First, a name was wanted that had a pronounceable acronym. Also, the geographic location had to be included, as well as the word “amateur.” As other amateur groups in town already had the words “club” and “association” in their titles, these words were to be avoided.

The name “Richmond Amateur Telecommunications Society” was authored by Jerry Williams, and came about from several brainstorming sessions where different names were discussed and thrown out. The acronym “RATS” does not refer to rodents, but is simply a word used when ones efforts are hindered by other situations; i.e., driving all the way out the repeater site to make repairs and realizing “Rats! I left my tools at home!” The club’s logo also refers to these small hassles that always seem to come up.

The original R.A.T.S. logo was designed on the kitchen table by John Alford, who was a talented cartoonist as well as an electronics designer. The little fellow all the way up his tower, expressing his regrets at having forgotten his tools, ties our name into the frustrations hams the world over have faced trying to better the hobby.

In 2003 the RATS Logo was updated to bring it up-to-date and help provide a more professional look that helps reflect what the club stands for.

Membership dues to RATS are $35 (Individual) and $55 (Family) effective for new applications and renewals submitted on or after October 1, 2023.

The club’s by-laws can be accessed here.

From 1978 to 2020, RATS operated Frostfest, which became the largest winter hamfest in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Richmond Amateur Telecommunications Society, Inc. (RATS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. PO Box 70613, Henrico VA, 23255
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