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After 25 Years On The Radio, Tom Joyner Says Goodbye


Morning radio host Tom Joyner retired today, ending his self-titled syndicated show after 25 years.


UNIDENTIFIED CHORUS: (Singing) It's "The Tom Joyner Morning Show."

CORNISH: Joyner steps down as an icon respected for providing a popular show aimed at entertaining and empowering African Americans. Tom Joyner has been around for so long, one celebrity guest on his final show today, rapper Ice Cube, had trouble accepting the news.


ICE CUBE: Yo, I can't believe you're not going to be on the radio next week. That's just crazy. I don't understand the world right now.

CORNISH: Here to talk about Joyner's legacy is NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. He knows Tom Joyner and has appeared on the show. So, Eric, what did his morning show mean for radio?

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: You know, for me, it really feels like the end of an era in black radio. I mean, Tom Joyner is one of the most successful radio personalities to create a show aimed at African American listeners, and he created this program that was, for many years, the voice of established black America. He connected African Americans across the country and provided this great forum to discuss issues that were important to us. I saw somebody on social media say his show was black Twitter before black Twitter existed, and I got to cosign that.

CORNISH: Meaning it had a kind of influence in its ability to critique mainstream culture - right? - from a black point of view.

DEGGANS: And also communication - you know, people could come on and talk about ideas, and then listeners might call in, and the hosts themselves would bat these ideas around. And if you lived somewhere where there wasn't this strong presence of black media, you got a shot of it from Tom Joyner.

CORNISH: Speaking of Twitter, Eric, we've been seeing a lot of black media personalities talk about his influence. Can you talk about how we see that in media today?

DEGGANS: Sure. I mean, Tom Joyner was such a huge influence on people. You know, of course, folks woke up to him for many years, but he was also an example for broadcasters and media personalities who are people of color about what they could achieve. He even appeared at a charity event that I organized to help support diversity in media in Tampa. I'll never forget what it was like for him to fly into Tampa in his own private jet at no charge to help us pull off this fundraiser to raise scholarships for black kids who wanted to study journalism. So not only by serving as an example, but also by helping raise money and raise awareness, he helped black broadcasters and media figures in countless ways.

CORNISH: How did Joyner build his career?

DEGGANS: Well, you know, he attended the historically black Tuskegee Institute, which is now called Tuskegee University. And he spent his early career in radio in Chicago, became popular. And then in the mid-1980s, he did this crazy thing where he took a morning radio job in Dallas and an afternoon job in Chicago, and then he flew back and forth between the two cities every day. And he got this nickname as the fly jock back then. But then by 1994, he decided to settle things down. He started the syndicated "Tom Joyner Morning Show," surrounded himself with these great comics and co-hosts and pioneered this format that, you know, younger hosts are following today, like Steve Harvey or "Sway In The Morning" or "The Breakfast Club."

CORNISH: Finally, another part of his legacy was promoting historically black colleges, also causes like voter registration. This also seems like a big part of his work, right?

DEGGANS: Yeah. He started a foundation that was aimed at supporting historically black colleges and raising scholarships for kids to attend them. He organized this cruise event called The Fantastic Voyage, which is named after the hit R&B song, and that raised money. He supported veterans, educational projects. He's always maintained this idea that the show can be successful and entertain people while also doing a lot of good, and I think that's a value that he sort of inherited from historically black colleges.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Eric Deggans.

Eric, thanks so much.

DEGGANS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.