BY DAVID HINCKLEY / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, April 5, 2012, 3:11 PM
Gil Noble, host of “Like It Is,” died at age 80.
Gil Noble, who became one of the city’s most revered black media voices for seeking the truth even when it was hard to find and hard to hear, died Thursday at the age of 80.
He had suffered a debilitating stroke last summer that forced him to leave “Like It Is,” the weekly public affairs program he had hosted on WABC-TV since 1967.
Over nearly five decades he became an admired colleague, an iconic community voice and an uncompromising survivor.
News director Bob Slade of WRKS (98.7 FM) noted that “Like It Is” was the last regular public affairs show in local mainstream media with a focus on black affairs, politics, music and culture.
“Like It Is” featured Noble’s commentary, analysis and interviews with thousands of guests, from the late Kwame Ture, Dr. Martin Luther King and civil rights pioneer Fannie Lou Hamer to entertainers like Lena Horne and Bill Cosby.
“Gil Noble’s life and work had a profound effect on our society and culture,” said WABC-TV President and General Manager Dave Davis. “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.”
He won four Emmy Awards for “Like It Is” and other WABC-TV projects, which included documentaries and specials on subjects from Paul Robeson to the inside world of heroin addiction.
Ironically, he never interviewed the man he called his greatest influence, Malcolm X.
In his 1981 memoir, “Black is the Color of My TV Tube,” Noble wrote that Malcolm X “taught me the cold, brutal facts of the Black existence in this country. He told me who I am, and I have kept that knowledge with me ever since, even as I walk down the corridors of ABC wearing a smile.”
“The African community has lost one of its most humble, most noble and brightest stars,” said Bernard White, a friend and former program director of WBAI (99.5 FM). “I see his passing as the end of an important era of black progressive, uncompromising electronic journalism.”
“Gil stood tall both literally and figuratively,” said his long-time colleague Bill Ritter, an anchor at WABC-TV. “His work mirrored a strong belief in justice and civil rights, and in the school of thought that journalists should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Gil never feared seeking the truth, and, more importantly, he never feared speaking it.”
“I loved Gil,” said WPIX/Ch. 11 anchor and his former coworker Kaity Tong. “Classy and smart as hell. And he was cool. I was a rookie at Channel 7 when I met him, and he never treated me with anything but affection and respect.”
Coworkers recalled him as warm and generous.
“As one of the most well-respected (and tallest) anchors in the business, he could be quite intimidating,” says Rosanna Scotto, a former Ch. 7 co-worker and now anchor of WNYW/Ch. 5’s “Good Day New York.” “I remember one time when I botched a live shot, I expected that he might give me a snide remark. Instead, he smiled at me and gave me advice. I will never forget his kindness.”
They also say he never took his eye off the prize.
“Whether we spoke on the phone or in person,” said Milton Allimadi, who guested several times on “Like It It,” “his first words were always ‘Milton, what’s going to happen to our people? Our people are catching hell here and in Africa.’”
Noble lamented the demise of black history courses, saying no one is equipped for the future without knowing the past.
Born in Harlem of Jamaican heritage, Noble developed an early love of jazz and played it on the piano.
He later would become a board member of the Jazz Foundation of America, often hosting the foundation’s annual “Great Night in Harlem” benefits.
He collected music, as well as literature and African art.
He turned to journalism as a profession in the 1960s and in 1966 was hired as a reporter by radio station WLIB.
He joined WABC in 1967 and by early 1968 had launched “Like It Is.” One of his cohosts was Melba Tolliver.
He contributed to other WABC programs and produced specials and documentaries until 1986, when he moved to “Like It Is” full-time.