MUSIC: ‘The House that Jack Built’

“It’s nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.” _ Legendary radio pioneer Hal Jackson

The soothing sound of his voice effortlessly made listeners smile as Hal Jackson announced “you just enjoyed finger-poppin’ time” on his Sunday Classics show, aired weekly on WBLS-FM in New York. At 96, the affable broadcasting giant and civil rights activist held the distinctive honor of more than 70 years of being ‘first’ _ initially as the first black radio announcer in Washington, D.C., the first black play-by-play sports announcer in the U.S., the first black announcer on network radio and the first black inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters’ Hall Of Fame in 1990. His death on Wednesday underscores the far-reaching legacy of a charitable and pioneering soul.

Colleagues and admirers credit Jackson with breaking barriers in entertainment, sports and business, giving many black artists radio play at a time when that was unthinkable. He eventually co-founded the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation, which was the first black owned and operated radio station in New York, and later acquired WBLS. In addition to broadcasting, Jackson was known for his Talented Teens International pageant and he wrote an aptly titled autobiography, “The House That Jack Built,” referring back to his 1949 radio show which highlighted jazz greats and more.

Jackson was born in Charleston, S.C., but his parents died when he was only 8. According to reports, Jackson was sent to live with an aunt in Washington, where he went to school and worked as a janitor and busboy. “They did not allow blacks into many of the locations, the restaurants, etc.,” Jackson told NY1’s Budd Mishkin in a 2004 interview. “I always felt things were going to come, and I always wanted to be on the radio.”


WBLS tribute to Hal Jackson:

NY1 coverage of Hal Jackson’s death (video):

Radio Hall of Fame snippet:

Hal Jackson’s 1949 WLIB radio theme on YouTube:

3 thoughts on “MUSIC: ‘The House that Jack Built’

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