Harold “Hal” Jackson, a Washington, D.C. native who was a sports broadcasting and journalism pioneer as well as a sports business entrepreneur, died yesterday at age 96, according to reports. Jackson was the first African American radio sports announcer, broadcasting the play-by-play of Howard University and Homestead Grays baseball games. But this was just the tip of the iceberg. He was an extraordinary man, with an unbelievable bucket list of accomplishments.
Although he was born only a few months after legendary New York Rens and Washington Bears basketball player John “Boy Wonder” Isaacs, Jackson would eventually own those same Bears, with Isaacs playing for him.
In addition to Isaacs, the Bears — which played during the 1940s and won the 1943 World Pro Basketball Tournament — featured future Basketball Hall of Fame players William “Pop” Gates and Charles “Tarzan” Cooper as well as stars Clarence “Puggy” Bell, Jackie Bethards, Zack Clayton, Sonny Woods, William “Dolly” King, and Charlie Isles. A late-1940s version of the team, still owned by Jackson, included “Rookie” Brown, “Sugar” Cain, and Johnny Wilson.
New York 1, WBLS, and The Root were among the first to report the news. Jackson, whose career in communications spanned over 70 years, was a longtime disc jockey at New York City’s 107.5 WBLS FM and the first black announcer in network radio.