WRDW-TV commenced operations on February 14, 1954; it is the second-oldest television station in Augusta. It was originally owned by the Morris family (whose holdings eventually became Morris Communications) along with the Augusta Chronicle and the original WRDW radio (1480 AM). It has been Augusta's CBS affiliate for its entire history, owing to its radio sister's long affiliation with CBS radio. However, it shared ABC with then-NBC affiliate WJBF (channel 6). On October 1, 1966, WJBF switched its primary affiliation to ABC, and began splitting NBC with WRDW-TV. This was unusual, but WJBF's namesake owner J.B. Fuqua wanted to get that station in line with two ABC affiliates he had just purchased, located in Evansville, Indiana and Fargo, North Dakota.
When WATU (channel 26, now WAGT) appeared as the market's third station in late 1968, NBC allowed WRDW-TV and WJBF to keep their secondary NBC affiliations. This situation mostly shut WATU out of access to network programming, thereby forcing it to go dark in 1970. Channel 12 continued to split NBC with WJBF until WATU resumed broadcasting in 1974 with a primary NBC affiliation. At that time, channel 12 finally became a full-time CBS station.
In the mid-1960s, the Morris family sold WRDW-AM-TV to Rust Craft Broadcasting. WRDW radio was acquired by entertainer and Augusta native James Brown in 1969 (it is now WGUS); both stations were allowed to retain the WRDW call sign. Rust Craft's station group was acquired by Ziff Davis in 1979. Channel 12 was sold along with then sister stations in Saginaw, Michigan, Rochester, New York, Chattanooga, Tennessee and Steubenville, Ohio to Television Station Partners in 1983. Television Station Partners sold off all of its stations in early January 1996, with WRDW going to Gray Communications Systems (now Gray Television).