Hal Jackson, known for being the first African-American voice on network radio, died on Wednesday. He was 96, according CBS. His career lasted an astounding 75 years.
WBLS’ vice president and general manager, Deon Levingston, confirmed the tragic news. Jackson’s last radio appearance was a few weeks ago when he hosted a Sunday show on WBLS.
“Hal was a giant. He was a first for so many. For radio and Black radio,” said Levingston. “He was always looking for ways to bring people in the industry up. We lost a giant and I lost a dear friend.”
Jackson, originally from Charleston, South Carolina, started his career in Washington D.C. in 1939 as the first African-American play-by-play sports announcer. From there, he took his talents to New York City. During his tenure he hosted three different radio shows with a mix of music and conversation.
During the Civil Rights movement, Jackson provided a voice to those who didn’t have a platform.
Paul Heine, senior editor at Inside Radio called Jackson the “godfather” of Black radio. “His longevity and his breaking down the doors, breaking the color barrier, he really made it possible for African-Americans who followed him to work in the medium,” said Heine.
Later in his career Jackson co-founded City Broadcasting Corporation, one of the first broadcasting companies owned by African-Americans.
For his trailblazing work in broadcasting, Jackson was the first African-American radio host to be inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1990, and in 1995 he was the first African-American to be inducted to the National Radio Hall of Fame. In 2010 he was dubbed a “Giant of Broadcasting” by the Library of American Broadcasting.
Over the course of his career he received four presidential commendations.