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Tennessee Journalism Hall Of Fame

“Recognizing individuals who have demonstrated outstanding skill in their Journalism field”

Don Whitehead

 
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For outstanding service to journalism, Mr. Donald Whitehead is inducted into the 2017 class of the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame.

Mr. Don Whitehead, was the first African-American hired as a full-time announcer at Nashville-based WLAC, a clear channel radio station whose signal during its early years reached most of the Eastern and Midwestern United States, in addition to southern Canada and the Caribbean. His hiring came at a critical time in American history: shortly after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968.

After studying drama and receiving a bachelor's degree from Tennessee State in 1967, he was hired by WLAC. Mr. Whitehead said his first assignment was to attend a press conference, but he said he was a theater major, not a journalist, and he had no idea what a press conference was." And the next morning there was a picture in the paper and the headline read 'Tennessee State student signs with WLAC as newscaster."

He was soon given a new assignment: Given the racial unrest in the late 1960s, Mr. Whitehead was asked to work on outreach to the black community. The young radio personality would encourage African-American youth to attend school, and would advertise for the colleges around the country while extolling the importance of education.

Mr. Whitehead would become a voice for the people, broadcasting from historically black colleges across the southern U.S. He would broadcast from more than 40 black schools across the South and continued as a WLAC radio broadcaster for nine years

At the time, Mr. Whitehead had little idea of the significance his role in broadcasting would have on history, and how his position at WLAC would later impact not only the presence of African-Americans in radio broadcasting but also the number of African-Americans attending college.

Throughout his career Mr. Don Whitehead has distinguished himself by outstanding service to the profession of journalism, and has brought great honor to himself, his community and the State of Tennessee.

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