Hal Jackson was a broadcaster who broke a number of barriers and worked hard to bring balance in a field dominated by whites. The pioneering disc jockey was born November 3, 1915.
Harold Baron Jackson was born in Charleston, S.C. and was raised in Washington, D.C. after losing both parents as a boy. His career began as a sportswriter for the “Washington Afro-American” paper, then he moved to broadcasting and became, by some accounts, the first Black play-by-play sports announcer for Howard University and the now-demolished Griffith Stadium.
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In 1939, Jackson’s broadcasting career took off with “The Bronze Review,” a nightly talk show program on the WINX station. As the station’s first Black host, his show was so popular that it was aired in three cities and on four stations. WINX managers resisted giving Jackson the slot because of his race and fear of losing listeners, so he used his own money to buy slots and ad space.
After moving to New York, Jackson helped innovate Black radio and broadcasting. In 1954, he became the first radio personality to broadcast three daily shows on three different networks. In 1971, in response to the larger teen pageants that catered to white contestants, he created the Miss Black Teenage America pageant, now known as the Talented Teen contest.
In the early ‘70s, Jackson partnered with Percy Sutton and Clarence Jones, who all co-founded Inner City Broadcast Corporations, one of the first broadcasting companies owned and operated by African-Americans. One of ICBC’s first acquisitions was WLIB-FM, now known as WBLS.
Jackson was the first Black person inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1995. He continued to work well into the 21st Century, hosting a weekly program as recently as 2011.
Jackson passed in 2012 at the age of 96.
PHOTO: Public Domain