The world of radio broadcasting has lost a major icon!
Ernest “Ernie” Jackson Jr., who is known as one of the pioneers of the historic Black radio movement in America and an award‐winning amateur photographer, recently made his heavenly transition on April 30, 2021.
Ernie Jackson was a trailblazer in the area of broadcasting and his reputation was established nationally where he collaborated and enhanced broadcast opportunities for others during his career. Here in the Greater Houston area, Ernie served as a tremendous asset to the community and made an immediate impact upon his arrival to the Bayou City in 1993.
Ernie was destined to be a trendsetter, business professional and community leader.
Ernie was born on January 18, 1943 to Rosie Mae Jackson and Ernest Jackson Sr. in Wichita Falls, Texas, but grew up in a small town in the heart of Finger Lakes in upstate New York with his siblings. Their home was in a unique setting that inspired his love for photography, nature and parks. As the only Black students in an all‐White school in Ovid, New York, Ernie and his siblings were confronted with the hostilities of social injustice very early, which is what planted the seed of “revolutionary change” in his heart.
Upon graduating from Ovid Central High School, Ernie worked as an attendant at the oldest hospital for the mentally insane in the country, Willard State Hospital, which made him keenly aware of the need for improvement in the quality health care industry. He enrolled in Corning Community College School of Nursing, where he received his Associate of Arts & Science degree in 1968 and was trained to be a surgical nurse. After receiving his first degree, Ernie went on to become the Activities Coordinator at Corning Community College and then became the
Assistant to the Dean at Alfred State University.
In 1971, Ernie went on to become the Director of Student Activities at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where he and his staff were responsible for all of the activities associated with the three student unions at Cornell. While at Cornell, Ernie met his soulmate, Willda Shaw, after hiring her to join his staff in 1972, and they were married in 1975.
Because of his passion for learning, Ernie continued to pursue his undergraduate degree in Radio & Television Broadcasting and received his Bachelor of Science Degree from Ithaca College in 1976. Professionally, his broadcasting career was launched at Cornell when a group of communications students asked him to host a Rhythm & Blues show at local radio station, WTKO‐AM. His on‐air name became “E. J. Smoke” and this opportunity began his life‐long commitment to community service in the broadcasting corporate arena and a lifetime of utilizing his skills, talent and education on enduring that the air waves were utilized for the benefit of the communities they were licensed to serve. Shortly afterwards, Ernie joined the sales team at WTKO-AM and was quickly promoted to Sales Manager and then to Vice President & General Manager.
In 1977, Ernie received a call from a headhunter which landed him his next job at WERE-AM radio station in Cleveland, Ohio. Less than two years later, he and his family packed their bags and headed to Charleston, South Carolina to help build two additional radio stations, WQIZ-AM and WQIZ-FM. In 1983, Ernie and his family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where he became the Vice President & General Manager of the oldest Black radio station in the U.S., WDIA‐AM. From Memphis, he and the family moved to Norfolk, Virginia, where he rebuilt WOMI-FM, another urban contemporary radio station.
After receiving a call from a colleague of his in 1993, Ernie decided to come back to his home state of Texas to become Vice President & General Manager at KMJQ-FM and KBXX-FM (Majic 102.1 and 97.9 “The Box”). As a result of Ernie’s commitment to the community, which was far reaching, both stations became a valuable resource as “Houston’s Community Stations” by disseminating much needed information and promoting events and activities for the African American community within the greater Houston area. After his retirement, these two Houston‐based radio stations were named the “Top Urban Contemporary Radio Stations in America” and Ernie was bestowed the distinguished honor of being named one of the “Top Ten Radio General Managers in America” by Radio Ink magazine.
After his initial retirement from the radio industry in 2001, Ernie embarked upon another thirteen‐year career, expanding his passion for community service.
In 2002, he founded “Project W.A.V.E.” – a non‐profit organization helping to educate and fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic in America. On “National HIV Testing Day” in 2003, Project W.A.V.E. tested over 6,000 people at 249 different locations using 23 local media partners. The organization would break records by testing over 85,000 people during its eight years of existence. Ernie also used his network to support a consortium of pharmaceutical companies known as “Together R.X. Access” which offered uninsured families a free prescription savings card. Project W.A.V.E., in partnership with Together R.X. Access, enrolled over 250,000 uninsured families in the prescription savings card program from 2004 through 2008.
In 2014, he was hired as the General Manager at KPVU‐FM, Prairie View A&M University’s public radio station. In 2015, he resigned from that position and dedicated the rest of his life to his family and his love for photography, traveling across the country and the world capturing the beauty of nature with his Nikon camera.
Ernie was preceded in death by his parents, Rosie and Ernest Jackson, Sr.; his older sister Alma; and both his paternal and maternal grandparents. He leaves to cherish his memory, the love of his life, his wife: Willda Shaw Jackson; his devoted siblings: his brother Patrick Jackson and his sister Norma Jean Cain; his beloved sons: Terry, Scott, Mark, Blake and Matthew; his five grandchildren: Natasha, Kyle, Erika, Pierce and Nolan; and numerous nieces, nephews, special friends and colleagues.
Ernest “Ernie” Jackson Jr. will truly be missed by many, but his legacy will continue to live on.
Ernie touched so many people and was such a selfless and giving person who gave much to our community. His “Celebration of Life” service will be held next Thursday, May 20th at 10:00 am at the Community of Faith Church, 1024 Pinemont Dr. The service will also be streamed live on the Community of Faith Church Facebook page as well as YouTube.