George Wilson, a veteran journalist and broadcaster whose Capitol Hill reports were heard on radio outlets across the country for three decades, was remembered as a powerful voice with a witty intellect who became “Black America’s voice” on Capitol Hill.
Wilson, who died March 17 at the Washington Hospital Center at the age of 70, reported for the National Black Network, Sheridan Broadcast Network, the American Urban Radio Network and Sirius XM radio. In addition to being a national broadcaster, he also reported for WHUR and was known as “GW on the Hill.”
He was eulogized Monday, March 26 at Unity of Washington DC in Northwest and interred at George Washington Cemetery in Adelphi, Md.
Askia Muhammad, a radio host on WPFW-FM, called Wilson “the Dean of the Black Press on Capital Hill.”
“George Wilson had that silky smooth voice that all of us in radio wish they had,” Muhammad said. “George knew the ins and outs of Capitol Hill, members of Congress knew him as did the Congressional Black Caucus.”
Rev. Dr. Doris T. McGuffey presided over the service, which included a reading by Symra Spottswood McDuffie titled “His Journey Has Just Begun,” and musical selections such as “The Creator Has A Master Plan” and the Voices of East Harlem’s “Giving Love.”
Brian Summers, a Republican staffer in Congress, said Wilson was well-respected in the U.S. Senate Radio and Television Correspondents Gallery, where he held court for years with one of the largest broadcast booths in the gallery.
“I was proud to join him in the booth and on his final show during the 2012 election night we [broadcasted] from XM studios,” Summers said. “Boy, did he have a voice.”
Oggi Ogburn, a veteran photographer, said, “George was a real good brother. I was always curious and I knew I could get a straight story. George was a great teacher. I learned so much from him. He started on Capitol Hill and he worked his way up.”
Wilson’s passion for journalism lead him to places around the world because he cultivated sources in the international and diplomatic communities. Wilson covered the fall of apartheid in South Africa, the plight of former Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide, and the revolution of people against numerous African dictatorships.
“Many of us in the media can often be full of ourselves, but he was always humble, a professional and had keen insight into what was really going in the stories,” said Nolu Crockett-Ntonga, née Phyllis Crockett, a former Washington correspondent for National Public Radio who covered the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court. “George was the go-to person for many stories.”
WAMU-FM host Kojo Nnamdi said he met Wilson in the late 1970s.
“George was introduced to me by Ron Sutton as someone who was interested in freelancing,” Nnamdi said. “We didn’t have an opening but when I saw him again, he was a Capitol Hill reporter who had a command of the Congressional Black Caucus and this was a testimony of his persistence as a reporter.”
Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of The Washington Informer, for which Wilson once wrote a weekly column, said Wilson was “Black America’s voice on the Hill.”
“We looked forward to his insights and analysis not only from legislation coming from the Congressional Black Caucus but also on issues impacting the District of Columbia,” she said.
At Monday’s service, Barnes talked about Wilson’s son, Akil, following in his father’s footsteps, and it was clear from talking to the children and listening to Akil’s eulogy that he loved his father.
Informer photographer Roy Lewis, who was also pallbearer at the service, called Wilson “a pioneer and trailblazer.”
“He rocked the boat,” Lewis said. “He would deal with controversy and take stands. George was a good writer. George was above a lot of people and lot of things. He opened doors for a lot of young people. George did it the hard way and he affected a lot of people. He was one of the everywhere people in this town. The members of Congress loved him because they got their message to people through him. He wasn’t just local, he was an international reporter.”
Bonita Bing, a photographer and president of the Exposure Group, lauded Wilson as someone who “told it like it was, whether people liked it or not.”
“He told the truth,” Bing said. “He was only concerned about keeping people informed, he always read and did his research. He always had books and magazines and all of these pictures of people he had interviewed.”
Bing, who works for the Senate sergeant-at-arms, met Wilson when she was part of his Capitol Hill internship program that trained many journalists.
“That’s was where I really learned,” she said. “He did much more than get a 30-second sound bite, he had to decide what was the most important thing from being at a press conference.”
Tene Croom, former news director and anchor for the American Urban Radio Network, said Wilson was a “consummate” Capitol Hill correspondent.
“He did what no one else had done and has done: He brought news from the Hill about people who were the underdogs — Black, White and the voices of the underprivileged to the U.S. and the world,” Croom said
Croom, who is chair of the Black Press Taskforce for the National Association of Black Journalists, said Wilson “shared the spotlight on groups like the Black farmers who were waiting for their 40 acres and the mule and he brought the big stories to people in little cities across the country.”
There were also many Facebook tributes to Wilson.
Dana Carl, a producer for Sirius XM, who also worked with Wilson at SBN, posted “His impact is unmeasurable while his candor remains unmatched.”
Charles Robinson of Maryland Public Television said Wilson was an institution.
“We worked together and appeared on various radio shows,” Robinson wrote. “When AURN refused to pay AFTRA fees he sued and won. When AURN told him to vacate his office on Capitol Hill, he laughed and stayed in his office. One of my favorite memories was one of our live broadcasts of the Million Man March with Ron Brewington.”
Rudolph Brewington, Ron’s twin, wrote: “As an anchor at SBN, I introduced many of George’s excellent reports on the air. He was a consummate professional and a real gentleman. He will be missed. RIP brother.”
Denise Toliver, who worked for several lawmakers in Congress: “George was always a fair journalist to CBC staffers and just a great person. That unique voice and hearty laugh was contagious. We have lost one of our greats.”
Wilson was born in New Orleans on Oct. 10, 1947, to George II and Rose Wilson. His family moved to D.C. when he was a youth. He attended Paul Junior High School and graduated from Calvin Coolidge High School in 1965, later attending Howard University as well.
Wilson’s widow Iris said that she fell in love with George after he called into National Public Radio one day inquiring about a job and she heard his voice.
“George’s velvet voice was unmistakable over the airwaves,” she said. “He had a passion for radio and now he is broadcasting somewhere in Heaven.”
Wilson left the airwaves in 2013 after suffering a stroke but he enjoyed talking to friends and spending time with family. Despite his failing health failed, he maintained a positive attitude almost to the end.
Wilson is survived by his wife Iris, his mother Rose, six children, seven grandchildren, one great-grandchild, aunts, cousins and a host of other relatives and friends.
I am so sorry to hear about the passing of George Wilson. When I worked as a local radio reporter, our paths crossed and he was always extremely professional, helpful, kind and courteous. He knew the “Hill” inside and out and provided accurate insight on the issues of the time.
May he rest in peace.
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