Vernon D. Jarrett was a pioneering Chicago journalist and education advocate who for over five decades stood as a pillar for excellence in Black journalism. Jarrett was born on June 19, 1918 in Salisbury, Tenn.
Jarrett attended Knoxville College on a football scholarship, graduating in 1941. In 1946, he began his journalism career in Chicago writing for both the Chicago Defender and the Associated Negro Press, the latter of which was a newswire service for Black American news. In 1948, Jarrett and composer Oscar Brown Jr. created Negro Newsfront the first Black daily radio news broadcast.
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In 1970, Jarrett became the first Black syndicated columnist for The Chicago Tribune, repeating that feat in 1983 after becoming the Op-Ed columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times working for the paper until his retirement in 1995. Also notable, Jarrett was a news host for ABC affiliate station, WLS. In 1975, he co-founded the National Association of Black Journalists, serving as its second president.
Along with journalism, Jarrett enacted the ACT-SO – Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological, and Scientific Olympics – for the Chicago NAACP in 1974. Today, ACT-SO is a viable youth program that serves students in over 400 cities nationwide. Adding to this legacy, the Vernon Jarrett Medal for Journalistic Excellence is awarded yearly by the Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.
Jarrett was once Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett’s father in law. She was married to his son, Dr. William Jarrett, who predeceased his father in 1993.
Vernon Jarrett passed in May 2004.
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