His innovations in radio led to the development of a directional antenna for broadcasting at night. This, in turn, led to a lawsuit by a station in Omaha, Nebraska, that said it would interfere with their signal if allowed. The case went through the Supreme Court twice and was finally settled in Fetzer's favor on the floor of the United States Senate. This led to some 3,000 stations getting their licenses granted by the FCC and put Fetzer in the position of pioneer and confidante of many in Washington.
World War II
During World War II, he was appointed the national radio censor for the U.S. Office of Censorship and created voluntary censorship of more than 900 radio stations so that they would not broadcast information that would be beneficial to the enemy. When the war started to wind down, Fetzer began asking for smaller and smaller budgets to run the office and began firing the 15,000 people employed by the office. When the war ended, he closed up shop and stored all the information in the basement of the National Archives. He said, "I'm convinced if we hadn't, the Office of Censorship would still be with us today, and I shudder to think how powerful it might be."
Fetzer's own broadcasting empire grew during the war and spread from Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids, Nebraska and Peoria. He formed the Fetzer Music Corporation and acquired the Muzak franchise for out-state Michigan in 1958. Inevitably, he would get into the new medium, television, and established Fetzer Cablevision, eventually, in Kalamazoo. That has since become Charter Communications that serves the cable needs of the Kalamazoo area.
In 1956, the troubled Briggs family trust put the Detroit Tigers baseball team on the auction block. Fetzer became part of the syndicate that bought the club so they wouldn't lose the lucrative baseball rights. He bought controlling interest in the club in 1960 and bought out his last partner in 1961. Soon, under his leadership, the Tigers were contenders and missed the pennant by a single game in 1967, then winning the World Series in 1968.
Fetzer began divesting his financial holdings in 1983. Philanthropically, he gave some of the money to Western Michigan University for a new business development center and some to Kalamazoo College for a new media center.
But most of the money went to the John E. Fetzer Foundation, which he established in 1962. Called the Fetzer Institute today, it sponsors research into what Fetzer called the connections between body, mind and spirit - another interest of his from his youth. In August of 1987, Fetzer moved his foundation and its staff of nearly 30 to new headquarters overlooking Dustin Lake on West KL Avenue in Oshtemo Township. The structure is an equilateral triangle shape representing the three connections he believed in. His interest in parapsychology and spirituality began at an early age, and he claimed to have had several spiritual experiences that influenced his later life. While spending a year bedridden with complications of influenza, he made this commitment, "If I am permitted to live, I will devote my life to the spiritual work of the Creator." For the next 73 years he did.
Fetzer also had a keen interest in family history. He wrote two books, One Man's Family: A History and Genealogy of the Fetzer Family (1964) and The Men from Wengen and America's Agony (1971).