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Radio pioneer Harold Jackson dies

Broadcaster was first African-American voice on network radio

New York radio pioneer Harold Jackson, the first African-American voice on network radio, died May 23 of an undisclosed illness in Manhattan. He was 96.

Jackson began his career in Washington, D.C., as the first African-American play-by-play sports announcer. In the 1950s he moved to New York, where he hosted three different radio shows on three different stations, broadcasting a mix of music and conversation with jazz and celebrities.

Jackson later co-founded the Inner City Broadcasting Corp., one of the first broadcasting companies wholly owned by African-Americans. The company acquired New York’s WBLS, which pioneered the urban contemporary format. Jackson continued to host a program each week on WBLS and had been on the air as recently as a couple of weeks before his death.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg described Jackson as a “legend.” “Hal was not only the first African-American voice on network radio or the first African-American play-by-play sports announcer, but an iconic legend who — during the Civil Rights movement — gave voice to the many who simply did not have one,” he said.

In 1995, Jackson became the first African-American to be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.

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