The Program Director Skip Dillard at WBLS lets you know what goes on behind the scenes,on the streets and in the politics that affect our communities.
Remember Hal Jackson May 26 2012
So how do you say so long to someone who did so much for so many! Some say he was 96, others 97. Either way this great civil rights pioneer, dad, entrepreneur, DJ, author, television host, philanthropist and business owner accomplished enough for several life times.
The truth is, Hal Jackson never took NO for an answer. When he was told by a white radio station owner that as a “n…..” (yes the N word was used) he would never be able to be on air in Washington DC, Jackson purchased his own air slot as an advertiser, even bringing Black celebrities to the station with him to make sure he’d be allowed into the radio station. This determination made Hal Jackson the FIRST African American doing radio in our Nation’s Capital!
It was also Hal Jackson who joined forces with the late Percy Sutton, convincing him to purchase the rights to what would eventually become WBLS-FM along with his plan to buy it’s sister AM WLIB. At that time in the early 70’s, AM radio was king and everyone considered FM radio “experimental”. Mr. Jackson was that kind of forward thinker.
But I’m not writing to talk about how famous he was or the people he knew ranging from MLK to Michael Jackson. I won’t mention his awards (he’s been honored by Presidents going back to Roosevelt). And I certainly could spend all day telling you the people he helped and hired from Frankie Crocker, to being among the first to play a record on WBLS by a then unknown artist named Alicia Keys.
The Hal Jackson I knew was someone who was always giving. Jackson’s “Talented Teens International” held pageants for 40 years. But these weren’t your typical beauty contests. The teen girls had to show their talent, poise and character. The scholarships and trips around the world helped these young ladies build self-esteem and expanded their horizons by exposing them to peers from around the world.
The Hal Jackson I knew liked simple things. He loved walks with his wonderful wife Debi, relaxing with friends, and he loved giving everyone a good laugh. Hal also enjoyed being up on what was happening in New York and everywhere else. He was seldom without a newspaper or two whenever I saw him.
The Hal Jackson I knew asked me “are you ok?” even though I was standing up and he was confined to a bed. And his smile alone and words of encouragement could cure even my worst day. That was how Hal Jackson lived.
At Mr. Jackson’s birthday party this past November I watched in awe as Stevie Wonder, Melba Moore, Valerie Simpson, Gerald Alston and the Jeff Foxx Band performed an impromptu jam session while he sat with tears in his eyes taking it all in. We had no idea this birthday celebration would be his send-off (he has one sister still living in Washington DC at 106!) but what a night it was. Just like Hal Jackson’s life it was one of those days you wished could have gone on forever.
Hal Jackson kicked open the doors for both women and minorities in radio and Television from on-air to ownership. He was an activist who worked well with people from all walks of life. He accomplished virtually every goal he set but he wasn't an elitist, publicity hound or opportunist. In fact, his most important message to all of us aspiring to walk in his footsteps is simple yet so underestimated today; “It’s nice to be important but it’s important to be nice”.