Former Chicago radio personality Floyd Brown dies

Trailblazer at WMAQ and WGN radio dies at 92

One of the first African-Americans to break the color barrier at a mainstream Chicago radio station has died. Floyd Brown, who was known to be one of the few Black radio personalities to appear on WGN Radio, passed away Friday at 92.

Born in Dallas, Brown arrived in Chicago enrolling in Evanston’s Northwestern University as a accounting major while working at the Drake Hotel. He caught his first break in radio at Elgin station WRMN-AM in 1951 as an engineer, eventfully getting his own show (WRMN still exists today.) He also became the first African-American to launch a rock station in Chicago, known as “Winner” WYNR-AM, perhaps the first instance of branding in radio (WYNR is now known as iHeart Media’s gospel station WGRB.)

Brown moved to NBC’s WMAQ-AM in 1965, becoming the first Black person hired by a major mainstream radio station in Chicago where he generally did the overnight shift. In 1971, Brown shifted to WGN Radio and Television, where he would have a long 28-year career before retiring in 1999.

During his time at WGN, Brown hosted his own radio show, generally devoted to jazz music. He interviewed numerous greats, including Duke Ellington and Ella’s Fitzgerald. Brown also worked on the TV side, where he was a news and sports anchor, hosted the station’s Nightbeat news show, and Know Your Heritage. Airing in Black History Month during February, Heritage tested Chicago-area school students on their knowledge of Black History (on a personal note, students from my school St. Columbanus competed on the show and won the championship in the early 1980s.)  

Brown’s TV work shifted to WTTW in 1985 where he hosted public affairs program 30 Good Minutes before retiring from the medium in 1996. 

Floyd Brown is survived by two children. This story was first reported by the Daily Herald


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