A celebration of life: Community says goodbye to Hal Jackson
CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 6/7/2012, 4:28 p.m.
Celebration and remembrance filled the Riverside Church last Thursday as mourners gathered to say goodbye to radio royalty Hal Jackson. Known best for breaking racial barriers and becoming a staple to the New York radio market, he was one of the founders of Inner City Broadcasting Corp., which owns WBLS and WLIB
The Rev. Al Sharpton eulogized Jackson during the ceremony that brought out a who's who of notable radio broadcasters, elected officials and community leaders. Other speakers included former Mayor David Dinkins, Rep. Charlie Rangel and Imhotep Gary Byrd, as well as former winners of Hal Jackson's Talented Teens International.
Jackson's children and grandchildren also shared memories, including Tonya Gray, Eugene Harley and Jewel Jackson McCabe.
Grammy Award-winning R&B singer Alicia Keys spoke at the service. She credited Jackson for being the first disc jockey to play her debut single, "Falling," in 2001. The song helped Keys earn three Grammys that year, including Song of the Year.
Musical tributes were made by Valerie Simpson, Melba Moore, Alyson Williams and Bishop Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Choir.
The Rev. Steven Phelps of the Riverside Church announced at the service that Jackson would be put into the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running broadcaster in history. Just weeks before his death, he was on the air broadcasting his weekly show, "Sunday Classics." Phelps also read letters of condolence from Stevie Wonder and President Barack Obama.
Jackson died on May 23 from illness at the age of 97. He is survived by his wife, Debi Jackson, four children, nine grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.