vjarrett.jpgVernon Jarrett, a trailblazing Chicago journalist, died on May 23 of respiratory failure due to cancer. He was 84.
Jarrett was born in Paris, Tenn., to two schoolteachers whose parents were former slaves. After graduating from Knoxville College, he moved to Chicago and became a reporter for the Defender, the nation’s most influential black newspaper. Jarrett covered a race riot his first day on the job. In 1970, the Chicago Tribune hired him to become its first black syndicated columnist. Thirteen years later, the outspoken writer took his political and social commentary to the Chicago Sun-Times, where he worked until 1994.
Jarrett championed civil rights in his broadcasting career as well. From 1948 to 1951, he and composer Oscar Brown Jr. produced WJJD-AM’s “Negro Newsfront,” the first black daily radio broadcast in the U.S. He produced nearly 2,000 broadcasts on race relations and politics for WLS-Channel 7, and received the Silver Circle Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
A founding member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the current president of one of the group’s Chicago chapters, Jarrett also dedicated himself to education. He taught history and journalism at several colleges and founded the Afro-Academic Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics, an intellectual competition for black high school students.
In recent years, Jarrett wrote a column for the New York Times’ New American News Syndicate and produced The Jarrett Journal, a news broadcast on WVON-AM, Chicago’s only African American-owned radio station. He was inducted into the National Literary Hall of Fame in 1998.
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