In an emotional show, Donnie Simpson bid farewell to WPGC listeners on January 29, bringing his popular Washington, D.C. morning talk show to an end.

Simpson, considered by many to be an icon in the radio industry, worked for 32 years in the Washington, D.C. market, including nearly 17 years at WPGC.

The show featured a star-studded list of callers from all walks of life, including comedian D.L. Hughley, fellow talk show personality Tavis Smiley, musicians LL Cool J, Stevie Wonder, and Smokey Robinson, former Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson Jr., gospel singer BeBe Winans and civil rights activist Dorothy Height. So many celebrity callers weighed in that producers were forced to scrap plans to have listener call-ins.

The most entertaining call of the day may have belonged to Steve Harvey. Harvey, also a morning radio host, expressed his frustration over Simpson leaving the airwaves.

“For this brother to no longer be on the airwaves is a major loss in our community,” said Harvey. “Please understand when you make the mistake of getting rid of Donnie Simpson, you all can get ready to unplug a lot of mess up there at WPGC.”

“Brother, I respect your decision but I know how the game really goes because you’re a good brother and you’re an honest man and you’re just going to roll out with the dignity that you came in with and I respect that,” Harvey said. “I ain’t got no dignity.”

Throughout the show, Simpson never fully addressed what exactly caused the reason for his split with WPGC, but he did make it clear that it was a creative control issue.

“This was my decision. The option to stay was there. There’s no question about that,” said Simpson. “I’ve always had control of what I do. I’ve always said ‘the day I don’t have is the last day I do this.’ This is the last day I do this.”

According to The Washington Post, Simpson’s severance agreement with WPGC prohibits him from taking another radio job in Washington, D.C. until March 2011. Simpson said during the program that he is not retiring, but gave no indication of his future plans.

Simpson also received guests in his studio for his final show, including Washington Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas, D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier, Prince George’s County, Md. State Attorney Glenn Ivey, go-go icons Chuck Brown and Sugar Bear of the group E.U., and Grammy nominated soul-singer Raheem DeVaughn.

Simpson was also joined in studio by his wife Pam and his daughter Dawn, who sat through the entire show with the beloved jock.

The show ended with current and former WPGC employees telling stories about what Simpson meant to them personally.

One of the station’s radio personalities, “The International Shack N Da Pack,” broke down while telling the story about how Simpson helped him out when he was at his lowest point financially. Shack had been attempting to go on the game show “Wheel of Fortune” for years, but when he finally got the phone call to be a contestant, he had no money to fly to California for the taping. Shack said Simpson not only paid for his trip, but also paid his monthly bills at the time as well.

One former co-worker who wasn’t there was Simpson’s former co-host, Chris Paul. However, Paul did write an e-mail to Simpson in which he encouraged Simpson to accept his “greatness.”

Simpson was devoid of tears for most of the show, but as the show ended with the Commodores song “Jesus is Love” playing, Simpson held his head low and dotted the tears away.

The day ended at Simpson’s favorite hangout spot, the D.C. restaurant Ben’s Chili Bowl, where hundreds of fans lined the street to greet Simpson.


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO