Jackson was born in Charleston, South Carolina and grew up in Washington, D.C. where he was educated at Howard University. Jackson began his broadcasting career as the first African-American radio sports announcer, broadcasting Howard’s home baseball games and local Negro league baseball games. In 1939, he became the first African American host at WINX/Washington with The Bronze Review, a nightly interview program. He later hosted talk show, a program of jazz and blues on WOOK-TV. Jackson moved to New York City in 1954 and became the first radio personality to broadcast three daily shows on three different New York stations. Four million listeners tuned in nightly to hear Jackson’s mix of music and conversations with jazz and show business celebrities.
In 1971, Jackson and Percy Sutton, a former Manhattan borough president, co-founded the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation (ICBC), which acquired WLIB — becoming the first African-American owned-and-operated station in New York. The following year, ICBC acquired WLIB-FM, changing its call letters to WBLS (“the total BLack experience in Sound”). As of the late 2000s ICBC, of which Jackson was group chairman, owns and operates stations in New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Fort Lauderdale, Columbia, South Carolina, and Jackson, Mississippi. As of February 2011, nonagenarian Jackson continued to host Sunday Classics on WBLS each Sunday from 3 to 6 p.m., with Clay Berry and Deborah Bolling Jackson, known professionally as Debi B., his wife of 25 years.
In 1990, Hal Jackson was the first minority inducted into the National Association of Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame. In 1995, he became the first African-American inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. He was given a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 2003. In October 2010 he was named a “Giant in Broadcasting” by the Library of American Broadcasting. Jackson was the founder of the Hal Jackson Talented Teens Miss International Competition. Jackson died of natural causes in New York City on May 23, 2012 with his three children and wife at his bed side at the age of 96.
- November, 03, 1915
- Charleston, South Carolina
- May, 23, 2012
- New York, New York