Updated 05/23/2012 11:14 PM
Longtime DJ Hal Jackson Dies At 96
Legendary disc jockey Hal Jackson, the first black radio announcer on network radio whose career spanned 70 years, died Wednesday at age 96. NY1's Ruschell Boone filed this report.
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Sunday Classics with legendary radio personality Hal Jackson ran for decades on WBLS. On Wednesday the soft-spoken voice went silent as Jackson died from an undisclosed illness.
Jackson was a trailblazer and broadcasting pioneer for the black community with more than 70 years in radio and television.
"I'm 50 so I've listened to him for over 30 years," said one local resident. "So it's really sad to hear."
"It's real relaxing his kind of music and he's a very positive person," said another. "You know, it's sad to see him go."
Those who knew Jackson said he helped to give blacks a voice during the civil rights movement, and he helped black artists to get radio play they wouldn't have gotten otherwise, helping many to succeed.
"You would have him playing the best of soul and R&B you know," said Vy Higgensen, the Executive Director of the Mama Foundation for the Arts. "Knowing more about the history of African-American music and its contributions to American music. So he was almost a library of music."
Back in 2004, Jackson appeared on One on 1 with Budd Mishkin. There, he talked about how difficult success was.
“I could never accept the fact that even though I had made it, I could still contribute to somebody or some other group making it,” he said.
Jackson was also known for his popular teen pageants.
Jackson accomplished many firsts. He was the first black radio announcer in Washington, first black play-by-play announcer in the country and on network radio and the first black inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame.
In the 1950s, Jackson hosted three different daily radio shows in New York. He then went on to co-found the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation, which was the first African-American owned and operated radio station in New York. The corporation later acquired WBLS.
"His greatest line was it's nice to be important, but it's important to be nice," said Skip Dillard, the operations manager at WBLS. "I think everybody really believed he lived by that motto."
We last interviewed Jackson after Whitney Houston's death which followed the passing of Don Cornelius. Jackson said I feel bad that my friends are dying. His family, fans and friends many feel bad that he's gone too. Hal Jackson was 96.