Friday, August 01, 2008

Hal Jackson makes WINX blink

Although by the fifties there had been several influential black DJs, it hadn't been easy for their forebears to gain employment. Civil rights was still an optimistic largely academic discussion. The media owners of the day were as bigoted as the street sweeper. Today we have a black man running for president. But in 1939, people obstructed the success of even talented educated blacks. Hal Jackson was just damn determined.

He was born in 1915 and grew up in Washington. He attended Howard University, then an all-black school. It as a good school though. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall attended as well. (It's often referred to as "the black Harvard" by condescending white ingrates.) It was there that he would later become the first African-American radio sports announcer, broadcasting American Negro Baseball League games over 1340 WOOK-AM. (Today we only know Howard for WHUR-FM) WOOK-AM eventually became WYCB-AM a reputable gospel outlet. WOOK had been founded by Richard Eaton as a "Negro" radio station playing R&B.

Hal first started broadcasting in 1939 with on a program called The Bronze Review, a nightly interview program on 1600 WINX-AM He was not received warmly at first. Actually he was first told "No nigger is ever going on the air in Washington," by an unnamed manager at WINX.
So Hal bought time on the station through Erlich & Merrick an advertising agency that cared more about the color green. His program did very well. Eventually he forced his way in. By the end of the year he was on other stations including WUST, WOOK-AM, WSID-AM, and WANN-AM. So he lapped the D.C. area daily doing shows in baltimore, Annapolis and Washington D.C.

He went on to New York where he worked at WLIB, WMCA, WPIX WNJR, WWRL, and syndicated programs for both ABC and NBC throughout the 1950s and 60s. More here. In 1971 Jackson was part of the group that bought out WLIB-AM, the first black owned and operated station in NYC. Today, Jackson is on the board at Inner City Broadcasting. Today he's on air at WBLS hosting Morning classics sixty years later. He was inducted into the radio hall of fame in 1995. In 2001 he penned an autobiography, The house that Jack Built... a book worth reading.