Today I am highlighting the career of Tom Joyner.
Thomas “Tom” Joyner (born November 23, 1949) is an American radio host, host of the nationally syndicated The Tom Joyner Morning Show, and also founder of REACH Media Inc., the Tom Joyner Foundation, and BlackAmericaWeb.com.
Joyner was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, the son of Frances and Hercules L. Joyner. Tom came from an educated family: his grandfather Oscar was one of only 3,000 black physicians in the United States, earning a degree in medicine in 1909. Both of his parents were graduates of historically black colleges, and both Tom and his brother Albert attended Tuskegee Institute, now known as Tuskegee University. Tom Joyner graduated with a degree in sociology in 1978. While a student at Tuskegee, Joyner joined the fraternity Omega Psi Phi. At first, his goal was to be a musician, and he joined a band that included his college friend Lionel Richie, but the band did not make any money and his family encouraged him to seek another way to make a living.
Joyner had been involved in college radio, and after graduation, he began his broadcasting career in Montgomery, Alabama immediately upon graduation, and worked at a number of radio stations in the South and Midwest, including stations in Memphis and St. Louis, before moving to Chicago in early 1978. In Chicago, he first worked at WVON, doing the morning show, but left the station after only three months to work at a competitor, WBMX-FM. By late, July 1978, however, he had been hired away by Charles Mootry, general manager of station WJPC (AM) (nowWNTD). This station, named for “Johnson Publishing Company,” was owned by John H. Johnson, owner of such black magazines as Jet and Ebony.
In 1985, Joyner was simultaneously offered two positions: one for a morning show at KKDA-FM (K104) in Dallas and one for an afternoon show at WGCI-FM in Chicago. Instead of choosing between the two, Joyner chose to take both jobs, and for eight years, he commuted daily by plane between the two cities, earning the nicknames “The Fly Jock” and “The Hardest Working Man in Radio”. He later told Radio Ink magazine that he racked up 7 million frequent flyer miles over the course of his employment at both stations
In 1994, Joyner was signed by ABC Radio Networks to host a nationally-syndicated program, The Tom Joyner Morning Show, featuring Joyner and a team of comedians and commentators reporting and discussing the latest news and sports of the day, and playing popular R&B songs from the 1970s through the 1990s as well as contemporary R&B hits. Also featured are celebrity guests, on-site remotes (called “Sky Shows”), and an on-air soap opera, It’s Your World which is currently not aired. Southwest Airlines is a prominent sponsor of the radio show, especially Joyner’s “Sky Shows,” and free round-trip airfare to any destination that Southwest flies to is a recurring giveaway on his show.
In 2005, a nationally syndicated television show, The Tom Joyner Show, was launched with Joyner as emcee of a one-hour comedy/variety show, combining sketch comedy featuring the Tom Joyner Show Players (his co-hosts from the radio show), talent contests, and musical performances by such artists as Earth, Wind and Fire, Brian McKnight, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds andToni Braxton. The show attracted advertisers such as McDonalds, Chrysler Corporation, WalMart and Southwest Airlines.
While the program achieved top ratings for a weekly syndicated program themed to African American viewers — even taking the number one show position, although it was in a late night time slot — in such markets as New York and Atlanta, affiliates in other markets were reluctant to upgrade the show to prime time for a targeted audience. Without the opportunity to reach a larger audience in earlier time slots and achieve greater revenues, the show had limited ability to offset the residuals and music clearances required by the many performers appearing on the show. Despite award recognition, in May 2006, Joyner decided not to continue due to production costs related to the music variety show concept. Re-runs are shown on TV One cable channel. As for his radio career, Tom Joyner continues to be an influential broadcaster: The Tom Joyner Morning Show, is heard live in over 100 cities, both on-air and via streaming audio, through its syndicator, Reach Media.
In 2005 Warner Books published “I’m Just a DJ but … It Makes Sense to Me” written with his longtime writer, Mary Flowers Boyce. The book chronicles his childhood and early days in radio as well as offers Joyner’s thoughts on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (“HBCUs”), the power of the black consumer and fatherhood. In February 2009, Amber Books published Tom Joyner Presents How to Prepare for College, a primer for parents and their children offering specific suggests and advice. The book features a foreword written by Joyner with writers Wil and Thomas LaVeist.
He appeared with his father and grandfather in the documentary “Rising from the Rails: The Story of the Pullman Porter” crediting his family with passing down important values which he passed down to his sons as well. His grandfather Oscar “Doc” Joyner was a Pullman porter who became a medical doctor.
Tom Joyner has had cameo roles in two films-The Gospel (2005) and Madea Goes to Jail (2009). He also had another television show, The Tom Joyner Sky Show (2003), and has appeared on many other television programs.
Joyner has been an advocate for voter registration and throughout the year promotes voter registration over the air, on his website and during his live ‘Sky Shows’ broadcasts. To improve healthy living, Joyner holds a ‘Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day’ every April or September. On that day, he rallies families and friends to go to the doctor to get a check up to prevent any health problems, and particularly treat any existing issues.
Joyner is participating in the 2011 Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s™ to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s research, care and support.
Joyner has also founded The Tom Joyner Foundation to provide financial assistance to students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Since 1998, it has raised more than $60 million to help keep students enrolled at HBCUs. The Tom Joyner Foundation also hosts an annual cruise named the Fantastic Voyage which also raises money for HBCU’s.
Joyner gives out two types of scholarships every year. The Hercules Scholarship, for male students, is named after Tom Joyner’s late father. Students are selected through the Tom Joyner Foundation School of Month program.
The Full Ride Scholarship is awarded to one freshman entering a HBCU each year, in recognition of academic distinction and personal qualities.
On October 7, 2004, Joyner was awarded the NAB Marconi Radio Award.
In 1998, Joyner was the first African American to be inducted into The National Radio Hall of Fame in Chicago, Illinois.
Joyner was inducted in the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site on January 12, 2008.