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Broadcasting Pioneer Hal Jackson Dies at 96

Wire Report | 5/25/2012, 12:58 p.m.

Hal Jackson, who became a legendary figure in radio broadcasting, died of an undisclosed illness on Wednesday, May 23 at the age of 96. For more than 75 years, Jackson broke barriers in radio and TV for African-Americans.

His career started in Washington, D.C. as a sports announcer in the 1930s at WINX, where the owner once told him "No n-----r will ever be on my radio station." It ultimately lead him to the nation's top media market, New York City, where in addition to on-air personality he added the title of owner as one of the founders of Inner City Broadcasting. He continued to broadcast across nearly eight decades until just a few weeks ago when he aired his last "Sunday Classics" show on WBLS.

Jackson was born in Charleston, S.C.,and his love of sports and education eventually lead to Howard University where he landed a job doing play-by-play for the school's baseball games and for the local Negro League team.

In the 1950s, Jackson became the first black personality on powerhouse station WABC where he hosted three different programs. He made his way onto WINX, where the owner said he would never work, by finding a white company to sponsor him and not telling the station who the announcer would be.

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

He met his second wife, Debi, when she entered the pageant. They married in 1987 and she became his radio partner, known as Debi B on "Sunday Classics."

Jackson was inducted into the NAB Hall of Fame, and also into the Chicago-based National Radio Hall of Fame in 1995. He was named a "Giant of Broadcasting" by the Library of American Broadcasting in 2010, and has received four presidential commendations.

Memorial plans are expected to announced this weekend.

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