Farewell to the Ultimate Cool Gent, Herb Kent

Renowned giant of Chicago radio and larger than life personality Herb Kent died last Saturday, October 22, at the age of 88.

Known as the “mayor of Bronzeville,” he grew up in the Ida B. Wells housing project and attended Hyde Park High School. Arguably, Kent‘s most influential position was from 1962 to 1970 at Chicago’s WVON. The station was and is an integral part of Chicago’s black community. Kent kept his thumb on the pulse of the community and was a voice of calm during the civil unrest following the death of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968.

Highly articulate, yet always approachable, the “Cool Gent” was like that cool uncle at the barbecue who always had a joke or good story to tell. His career spanned 72 years, making him the longest running DJ in radio history. In 1995, he was inducted in the Radio Hall of Fame. The radio legend remained active literally up until the day he died, broadcasting his last morning show at Chicago’s V-103, his radio home for more than 30 years, on Saturday.

In un-aired footage shot for the 1996 documentary Radio Faces, Kent gives a brief account of his long career and is honored on a live broadcast of the Tom Joyner Show on V-103. It was filmed at Chicago’s famed Edna’s soul food restaurant, which served as a meeting place for Chicago’s black community and politicians and was frequented by Rev. King.

Radio Faces was produced by Tom Weinberg with associate producer Joel Cohen. We discovered this footage of Herb Kent in the camera original “outtakes,” of which there are more than 150 hours. The footage exists nowhere else, and you would not be seeing it today if we hadn’t spent years digitizing and cataloging the collection, and then spent much of this week producing and editing this new video. Please support the vital work of archives by supporting our preservation and programming.

Check out Media Burn for the full interview with Herb Kent, where he discusses his entire career and his heroes in radio, as well as the complete Tom Joyner Show appearance, including several stories about Kent‘s wackier side.

 

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