Jackson was the first black voice on network radio, initially serving as a play-by-play sports reporter in Washington, D.C., and later moving to New York to help establish Inner City, one of the first black-owned broadcasting companies.
Hal Jackson, one of the "Founding Fathers" of broadcasting, died Wed., May 23, after more than 70 years in broadcasting. He was 97. Known as a unique pioneer who broke numerous color barriers in the entertainment industry, Jackson was a civil rights crusader, a civic leader, and considered an iconic living legend.
Jackson was an inspiration to many; launching the careers of musicians spanning seven decades from the 1930's to the present. Jackson was the first to break songs by the Commodores featuring Lionel Richie right up to Alicia Keys. Hal Jackson observed the progress of African Americans in the 20th century and bridged the 21st century – from lynchings and Jim Crow segregation to witnessing the election of America's first African American President. Jackson's civic endeavors encouraged young women to go to college through his Youth Development Foundation, Inc.
Jackson was the first minority inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters' Hall of Fame and the first of five African Americans inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. Hal Jackson has been honored by six of this nation's Presidents and was recognized by the Smithsonian Institution as a "National Treasure." Hal Jackson's life, chronicled in his 2001 autobiography, The House That Jack Built is an extraordinary record of the man, the times and his American dream story.
Born in Charleston, South Carolina on November 3, 1914, Jackson was the fifth child born to Eugene Baron Jackson and Laura Rivers Jackson. Eugene and Laura Jackson worked very hard to make sure that their five children not only had the best education, but the same privileges and opportunities afforded to what was considered then upper middle class America. Losing both parents at a very young age gave him the motivation and drive to set high standards and achieve them. So at the age of thirteen, he claimed his independence and moved to New York.
Jackson's journey in radio began in 1939 during the Jim Crow years of segregation in Washington DC. Jackson approached the management of WINX radio, owned by the Washington Post, and proposed The Bronze Review. He was told by management, "No nigger will ever broadcast on this station." For Hal Jackson it was the beginning of the first in a series of racial breakthroughs in America that would impact growth and development of minorities in communications in the 20th century.
Jackson met that challenge, engaged his associates at Kal, Erlich and Merrick, a wholesale buyer of radio, and purchased a 15-minute segment on WINX. He organized the Negro business community to sponsor a talk and music program formatted to introduce, showcase and validate Negro achievements that were impacting America. Jackson's interviews included pioneers from every discipline in an era of legal segregation. His guests ranged from
In the 1940's, Jackson was the owner and manager of the famed Washington Bears, the first African American team to win the world's professional basketball championship, equivalent to today's NBA.
The 1950's and 1960's were ground breaking years in NY. He hosted NBC-TV's Frontiers of Faith, ABC radio's Live from Birdland, and broadcasted daily 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM on WLIB; and 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM on WMCA. His live weekly concerts broadcast from Palisades Amusement Park helped to solidify his close relationship with Berry Gordy during the Motown Hitsville years.
Hal Jackson is survived by his wife Debi Jackson, his children, Jane Jackson Harley, Judge Harold B. Jackson, Jr., Jewell Jackson McCabe, and Tonya Gray. In his legacy he leaves nine grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild.
Jackson's dreams allowed others to dream. Through his work Jackson presented many opportunities for others and continuously gave back to the community. He truly lives by his words, "It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice."