L egendary radio personailty Harold “Hal” Jackson, the first black radio announcer on network radio whose career spanned 70 years, died Wednesday at age 96. Sunday Classics with legendary radio personality Hal Jackson ran for decades on WBLS in New York City. On Wednesday the soft-spoken voice went silent as Hal Jackson died in the hospital from an undisclosed illness. He had been on the air as recently as a couple of weeks ago, hosting his Sunday show on WBLS. Hal Jackson was the godfather of black radio. His longevity, his breaking down the doors and breaking the color barrier, really made it possible for Black-Americans to work in the broadcast medium.
Hal Jackson began his career in the late 1930s on Washington, D.C.’s WINX, weeks after the station owner told him, “No nigger will ever be on my radio station.” He made his way onto WINX by finding a white company to sponsor him and not telling the station owner who the announcer would be. He would become the first Black-American play-by-play sports announcer. That was the first of many barriers Hal Jackson would break.
In the 1950s he moved to New Yory City and he became the first black host on WABC, then in the 1970s he joined with Percy Sutton’s Inner City Broadcasting to become the first Black owners of a major AM/FM combination in New York City.The company acquired WBLS, which pioneered the urban contemporary format.
Born in Charleston, S.C., Hal Jackson grew up loving sports and school. He attended Howard University and in 1995, became the first Black-American to be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.
While Hal Jackson was known for his positive attitude, he also said he did not forget the setbacks, slurs, barriers and hard times. Memorial plans are expected to be announced by the weekend.