Bobby Jackson, Veteran Jazz Broadcaster, Dies at 57

A radio and TV fixture in Ohio and Georgia, Jackson was also an educator

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Bobby Jackson

Bobby Jackson, a longtime, award-winning jazz broadcaster and educator, died Dec. 9 in Cleveland. Jackson, who was 57, died suddenly of undetermined causes, said his wife of 10 years, Lisa-Jean Sylvia.

Jackson most recently created, wrote and hosted The Roots of Smooth, a syndicated radio program airing on 21 stations. Prior to that, he was the music director of northeastern Ohio public radio station WCPN 90.3-FM and WVIZ-TV. His program Jazz Tracks was named the Ohio Educational Telecommunications Program of the Year and he received the Gavin trade magazine’s national jazz radio Programmer of the Year award three times. He also emceed a national broadcast of the Detroit International Jazz Festival and operated a website, The Jazz Mind.

As an educator, Jackson taught at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he served as an adjunct professor. He wrote liner notes for Oberlin’s jazz faculty recordings and articles on some of the Oberlin jazz faculty. He also taught a jazz history class at the Cleveland Music School Settlement.

Jackson was nominated three times by the Jazz Journalists Association for the Willis Conover/Marian McPartland award for broadcasting. He consulted on programming for radio stations including WJSU-FM Jackson, Miss., WSHA-FM Raleigh, N.C., WFSS-FM, Fayetteville, N.C., WSSB-FM, Orangeburg, S.C. and WRVS-FM Elizabeth City, N.C.

Born in The Bronx, and a graduate of DeWitt Clinton High School, Jackson got his start in radio during the late 1970s at the University of Georgia’s student-run station WUOG in Athens, Ga. He spent seven years (1987-94) as a host and both music director and program director at WCLK-FM in Atlanta. His move to Cleveland came in 1994, where he remained until his death. Jackson also worked at two major television networks with the likes of Robbin Roberts and Earnie Johnson.

Jackson was the recipient of the Duke Dubois Humanitarian Award at the 2010 Jazz Week conference in Rochester, N.Y. Other honors included the Communicator’s Award-National Crystal Award of Excellence, and the Ohio Educational Telecommunications Award for Best Cultural Arts Weekly Series.

Said Sylvia, “Bobby was a warrior protecting jazz, not so it would stay the same but so that it could grow. He believed that jazz was an expression of African-American culture.”

Jackson leaves his wife and his 10-year-old son, Xavier. The family is welcoming support through donations to the Bobby Jackson Memorial Fund. Send donations to Key Bank, 3266 Steelyard Drive, Cleveland, OH 44109.