Hal Jackson, disc jockey and radio personality, died at 96

  Dead Famous

Dead, Harold Baron “Hal” Jackson on May 23, 2012, he was an American disc jockey and radio personality who broke a number of color barriers in American radio broadcasting. Born on November 3, 1914, in 1939, he became the first African American host at WINX/Washington with The Bronze Review, a nightly interview program.

He later hosted talk show, a program of jazz and blues on WOOK-TV. In 1971, Jackson and Percy Sutton, a former Manhattan borough president, co-founded the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation (ICBC), which acquired WLIB — becoming the first African-American owned-and-operated station in New York.

The following year, ICBC acquired WLIB-FM, changing its call letters to WBLS (“the total BLack experience in Sound”).

As of the late 2000s ICBC, of which Jackson was group chairman, owns and operates stations in New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Fort Lauderdale, Columbia, South Carolina, and Jackson, Mississippi.

Jackson excelled at a variety of athletics at Dunbar High School, including baseball and tennis, and went on to attend Howard University, where he worked as a college sports announcer.

Through sheer panache, Jackson secured a spot providing commentary to the crowd at games for the Homestead Grays, who were part of the Negro Leagues.

By the end of the 1930s, Hal Jackson had approached Washington, D.C.-based WINX with an idea for an interview program, with management telling him in racial derogatory language that an African American would never work at the station.

Jackson then decided to get a sponsor, C. Coley, who owned a restaurant chain, and hired the white advertising agency Erlich & Merrick to secure 15 minutes of WINX airtime.

Jackson was active in countless organizations such as Save the Children and founded the Talented Teens International Pageant, whose alumnae include Jada Pinkett Smith.

Born in Charleston, S.C., Jackson grew up loving sports and school.

He attended Howard University and 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 was the first black inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1995, and was named a “Giant of Broadcasting” by the Library of American Broadcasting in 2010.

Jackson was caught in the payola scandal of the early 1960s and, facing allegations of taking money for song play and doing janitorial work to support his family, lost his WLIB job.

Charges were eventually dropped, with some asserting that Jackson was targeted for his active support of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

(Jackson had been known for previous activism as well, having helped end racist policies at D.C. fashion retailers and forming an all-black basketball team.)

In 1971, Jackson teamed with Percy Sutton to co-found the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation.

They also acquired WLIB (AM) and WBLS (FM), which became the first African American-owned and -operated radio stations in New York City.

With DJ and program director Frankie Crocker, WBLS created what would become known as the urban contemporary format, aimed to appeal to a diverse audience. By the end of the decade, WBLS was the top station in the city.