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New York City broadcasting legend Gil Noble, producer and host of WABC-TV’s groundbreaking public-affairs program Like It Is, died Thursday. He was 80.
Debuting amid the nation’s racial turmoil in the 1960s, Like It Is ran weekly and created the largest body of programs and documentaries on African-Americans in the U.S., offering a rare opportunity for viewers of all races to look at events through the black perspective.
Noble, whose career in television news and programming spanned more than five decades, joined WABC as a reporter in July 1967 after a stint as a part-time announcer for Harlem-based radio station WLIB-AM. He was named anchor of the TV station’s weekend newscasts the following January, and later in 1968, he became host of Like It Is. Noble began producing the program in 1975 and worked on it until he suffered a stroke in July.
“Gil Noble’s life and work had a profound effect on our society and culture,” WABC president and GM Dave Davis. “His contributions are a part of history and will be remembered for years to come.”
Noble earned seven local Emmy Awards and created documentaries on W. E. B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Charlie Parker, among many other notables. In 1977, he wrote, produced and directed The Tallest Tree in Our Forest, the first documentary on Paul Robeson.
A son of Jamaican immigrants and native of Harlem, Noble interviewed many national and international luminaries, including heads of state Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe; entertainment icons Bill Cosby, Harry Belafonte and Lena Horne; sports stars Muhammad Ali and Arthur Ashe; and political notables from Jesse Jackson to Louis Farrakhan.
Noble’s great love for the piano fueled a passion for jazz, which he considered the root of American music. He was an avid supporter of the Jazz Foundation of America and served on its board of directors.
Noble was the recipient of more than 650 community awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Black Journalists and five honorary doctorates.
Survivors include his wife Jean and their five children.
The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Gil Noble Archives, P.O. Box 43138, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043. Proceeds will be used to preserve the archives so that Noble’s mission of educating the community about its culture and history will continue.
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