Remembering The Awesome Legacy of Broadcasting Pioneer Harold “Hal” B. Jackson (Nov. 3rd, 1914 – May 23rd, 2012)

| May 30, 2012 | 0 Comments

Thousands of radio broadcast fans have been paying tribute to the late Harold “Hal” Baron Jackson, who died May 23, 2012, following a brief illness. The legendary host of the popular WBLS-FM program, Sunday Classics, who had been married to his co-host Debi B. Jackson for the past 23 years, was the world’s longest living on air personality. Just six months ago, Mr. Jackson, co-founder of Inner City Broadcasting Corporation, Inc. along with the late Percy Sutton, celebrated his 97th birthday at a star-studded gala that included the likes of Stevie Wonder, with whom Mr. Jackson had joined forces years ago to honor the late Dr. Martin Luther King by making his birthday a national holiday.

On Mr. Jackson’s 97th birthday, November 3, Mr. Jackson issued a statement to magazine editor Cynthia Horner, whose firm, Cinnamon CHIPS, serves as a publicity arm for The Youth Development Foundation (YDF), sponsors of Hal Jackson’s Talented Teens International, Mr. Jackson expressed his gratitude and profound appreciation to those who celebrated his birthday with him. At the time Mr. Jackson said, “I feel this is a great honor and privilege to have worked in broadcasting for 73 years and that I am very lucky to have had my health to hold up all of these years. In those years you learn to help different people in different cities. I am lucky and blessed for the strength that I have so that I can help others. Thank God I have been blessed. I will pass this legacy on to the next generation.”

Over the years, Mr. Jackson not only played musical platters, which turned into solid gold and platinum hits for virtually every recording artist in the business, from Ella Fitzgerald, The Jacksons, New Kids On The Block, New Edition and Whitney Houston, all of whom had the deepest respect for the winsome, engaging broadcast DJ, but he was a pioneer of human and civil rights as well. Jackson, who suffered numerous human indignities at a time when African-Americans were prevented from pursuing career aspirations, particularly in broadcasting, fought for the inalienable rights of others. Cognizant of the need to give young people exposure, he founded the first talent competition for young people of color, Hal Jackson’s Talented Teens International. The competition provided an important launching pad for such talented performers as Sheryl Lee Ralph, Vanessa Williams, Jada Pinkett (Smith), Michelle Thomas, CeCe Peniston, Allison Williams, and Me’lisa Morgan, all of whom went on to great heights in the fields of music, television and film. Out of his own pocket, Mr. Jackson awarded approximately $2 million dollars in college scholarships to the competition’s winners runners up for 40 years.

This gentle radio giant has been feted at a variety of New York City high profile events including occasions marking his 25th, 50th and 65th years in broadcasting. Hal 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 United States 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.

Funeral services for Mr. Jackson will be held at Riverside Church in New York City, NY on Thursday, May 31. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations are made to The Youth Development Foundation, Inc., 1230 Park Ave. PH A, NYC, NY 10104. The YDF is a non-profit tax-exempt organization that promotes culture and education through the performing arts, and was founded in 1971 by Mr. Jackson. Mr. Jackson is survived by his wife Debi Bolling Jackson, children Jane Jackson Harley, Judge Harold B. Jackson, Jr. Jewell Jackson McCabe and Tonya Bolling Gray, several grandchildren, great grandchildren, one great great grandchild and many close friends who viewed him as one of the most iconic, inspiration men in the entertainment industry.

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