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Thu, 02.22.1934

Gil Noble, TV host born

Gil Noble

*Gil Noble was born on this date in 1932. He was a Black television broadcaster and journalist.

From Harlem, NY, Gilbert Edward Noble was the son of Rachel Noble, a teacher, and Gilbert R. Noble, who owned an auto repair shop.  Both parents were born in Jamaica. He attended City College and was drafted into the Army during the Korean War. After the service, Noble was hired as a reporter for the radio station WLIB in 1962.  In 1967, when American race riots prompted network television stations around the country to recruit some of the first Black reporters, he was hired by WABC. He worked as reporter, weekend anchor and correspondent for “Like It Is,” a show that began in 1968.

In 1975 he took over as its host and eventually received seven Emmy Awards. Though broadcast only in the New York metropolitan area, “Like It Is” attracted guests of national and international influence. Some were controversial. His interviews with figures like Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam drew complaints of one-sidedness. But for Noble, that was the point: He said in 1982, “My response to those who complained that I didn’t present the other side of the story was that this show was the other side of the story.” His interviews comprised an archive of contemporary Black history in America: hundreds of hour-long conversations with political and cultural figures like Lena Horne, Fannie Lou Hamer, Bill Cosby, Sammy Davis Jr., Muhammad Ali, Andrew Young, Dizzy Gillespie, Stokely Carmichael and more.

The deep support Noble enjoyed among his viewers helped him survive two controversies stemming from interviews with figures considered anti-Semitic, biased against Israel or both. WABC-TV executives shelved the segment, saying it could aggravate racial unrest in the city. As it happened, long-simmering tensions between blacks and Jews in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn exploded into violence the next week. Protesters again appeared outside the station’s offices. This time, they included a state senator, later to be governor of New York, David A. Paterson.

“It was a spontaneous protest as I recall,” Mr. Paterson said in an interview. “People just showed up. Because ‘Like It Is’ it was something special in the African American community, to be protected.” Noble told The Village Voice later that year, “Some white Americans are repelled by ‘Like It Is,’ but that’s the nature of the program, we are witnessing a quarrel between the races in America, and certain opinions in the black community must be heard even if they are revolting.” After Noble’s stroke, WABC-TV began broadcasting “Here and Now,” a public affairs show it described as “continuing the legacy of Gil Noble.”

Gil Noble died on April 5, 2012, his survivors include his wife, Norma Jean; their four daughters, Lynn, Lisa, Leslie and Jennifer; a son, Chris; and eight grandchildren.

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