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RIP Gil Noble


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Farewell to a true NYC broadcasting legend:

As a journalist and television producer, Gil Noble worked to dispel the negative images of African Americans in media. The notable host of the long-running public affairs program Like It Is also pushed for clear ethics and objectivity in journalism. According to WABC-TV staffers, including anchor Diana Williams, Noble has died at the age of 80. No additional details are available at this time. Noble had suffered a stroke in July 2011.

Born on Feb. 22, 1932, in Harlem, N.Y., Noble was raised by Jamaican immigrants Gilbert and Iris Noble. Growing up influenced by jazz pianist Erroll Garner, young Noble took up the piano and decided as a teen to pursue a career in music. He even formed the Gil Noble Trio, playing in New York clubs while attending City College. (His love of jazz would later lead him to become a strong supporter of the Jazz Foundation of America and join its board of directors.)

After graduating, he went on to work for Union Carbide and modeled part time. He met his future wife, Jean, also a model, at this time.

Noble got his first break in broadcast media in 1962, when he became a part-time announcer for Harlem radio station WLIB. He soon began reporting and reading newscasts as well as servicing the Associated Press teletype machine. He also tracked interview tapes.

In 1967 he auditioned for a reporter job with WABC television news. He was hired after completing his second assignment: covering the riots in Newark, N.J.'s Central Ward. The National Guard had blocked off and isolated blacks within the area, but Noble was able to cross the barricade and get the story from the perspective of the people living in the community.

Noble was promoted to weekend anchor in 1968. He was also an occasional interviewer on some of the station's public affairs shows, like Eyewitness Exclusive. That same year, after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, the station developed a show -- Like It Is -- that was centered on black America. Actor Robert Hooks was the show's first host, while Noble was the interviewer, but Noble was named the host after Hooks left for an acting job.

The weekly show was mostly entertainment driven until 1975, when Noble became the producer. He switched the show's focus to weightier issues. Over the years, he interviewed leading figures from across the African Diaspora, from government and politics to sports and entertainment -- luminaries such as Jamaica's Michael Manley, Guinea's Ahmed Sékou Touré and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe; Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, Louis Farrakhan and Stokely Carmichael; Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Arthur Ashe; and Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne and Dizzy Gillespie.

Noble also started working on documentaries in 1977, which became the focus of his career -- and the most rewarding part of it. Such films, he said, "remain a powerful weapon to change false values, correct historical error and cure the poison of prejudice in the minds of black and white Americans."

His first documentary, The Tallest Tree in Our Forest -- which he wrote, directed and produced -- was on the life of Paul Robeson. He would go on to tell the stories of other historic figures, including W.E.B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Jack Johnson and Charlie Parker.

In 2002, fans helped save Like It Is from cancellation by holding rallies to show their support.

During his career, Noble received more than 650 community awards, seven Emmys, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Black Journalists and five honorary doctorates.

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