Gil Noble, host of one of the longest-running public affairs shows in commercial television about African Americans, died April 5 in New York City after a long illness. He was 80.
An award-winning journalist and an accomplished musician, Noble was a revered voice among both mainstream and minority broadcasters and broke new ground for Blacks in media.
He is best known for hosting “Like It Is,” an hour-long weekly show that featured news stories, public affairs discussions, and performances by giants of Black culture from 1967 through 2011.
Noble, who produced the show since 1975, suffered a stroke in July, according to WABC officials.
By the time the show was cancelled in October, it had won seven Emmys—four of them for Noble’s work—and the show was regarded as a key platform for interviews of major African American figures.
“It was the stopping-off point for all Black celebrities, historians, entertainers and New York politicians,” Richard Watkins, the show’s producer from 1971 to 1975, told the AFRO. Watkins won an Emmy and a DuPont-Columbia award for a documentary on the prison riot in Attica, N.Y. “We were the court of last resort for issues that needed to be aired.”
Interview subjects included Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe, Harlem congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley, Rev. Al Sharpton, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Pan-African historian John Henrik Clarke and Rev. Jesse Jackson.
The list of sports figures that appeared on the show included football star Jim Brown, boxing great Muhammad Ali and tennis icon Arthur Ashe. The show also featured in-studio jazz and popular music performances by drummer Max Roach, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, and singers Patti Labelle and Miriam Mekeba.
A native of Harlem who was raised by Jamaican parents, Noble entered journalism in 1962 at New York radio station WLIB as an announcer. He later became a reporter at WABC, for whom he covered racial unrest in Newark, N.J. and, when the station created “Like It Is” in 1967, became a major contributor to what was then a public affairs program with an emphasis on entertainment.
Noble was also noted for winning behind-the-scenes battles. “In order to do some of the more controversial shows, he fought the powers that be at WABC and ABC network,” Watkins said.
In a statement April 5, Noble was honored by his former bosses.
“Gil Noble’s life and work had a profound effect on our society and culture,” WABC President and General Manager Dave Davis said in a statement. “His contributions are a part of history and will be remembered for years to come. Today, our hearts are with Gil’s family, his wife Jean and their five children, and we thank them for so lovingly sharing him with the world all these years.”
“Gil Noble was unwavering in his commitment to tell the stories of African-Americans which were otherwise lost, stolen or forgotten. He was a giant among Black journalists and we all stand upon his shoulders and owe him a debt of extreme gratitude,” Watkins said.