Category: Blog

Glenn Frizell
BLACK HISTORY, NOTABLE BROADCASTERS, FEB. 10: Max Robinson was the first African American broadcast network news anchor in the United States and one of the founding members of the National Association of Black Journalists. Robinson was born in May of 1939 in Richmond, Virginia and went on to attend Oberlin College where he was freshman class president. He briefly served in the United States Air Force and also attended Indiana University. He began working in radio early on, including a short time at WSSV-AM in Petersburg, Virginia, where he called himself “Max The Player.” Robinson began his television career in 1959, when he was hired for a news job at WTOV-TV in Portsmouth, Virginia. Robinson later went to WRC-TV in Washington, DC, and stayed for three years, winning six journalism awards for coverage of civil-rights events such as the riots that followed the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was during this time that Robinson won two regional Emmys for a documentary he made on black life in Anacostia entitled The Other Washington. In 1969, Robinson joined the Eyewitness News team at WTOP-TV (now WUSA-TV) in Washington, D.C. He was teamed with anchor Gordon Peterson, becoming the first African-American anchor on a local television news program. In 1978, Robinson was hired by ABC Nightly News as part of a three-anchor format (Max Robinson, Peter Jennings, Frank Reynolds). Robinson would anchor the news from Chicago. The three-man co-anchor team was a ratings success, and Mr. Robinson became the first black to anchor a nightly network newscast. During his years at ABC News, Mr. Robinson frequently spoke out on issues of concern to him as a black journalist and role model. On camera, Robinson had an unforced, authoritative manner. In 1983, Mr. Jennings was named sole anchor of ABC Nightly News. Mr. Robinson remained with ABC News for another year and a half delivering weekend reports among other duties. In the fall of 1988, Robinson was in Washington to deliver a speech at Howard University’s School of Communications when he became increasingly ill. Robinson checked himself into Howard University Hospital, where he died of complications due to AIDS on December 20, 1988.

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