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Radio Hall of Fame Class Of 2019 Induction Ceremony

Inductee Joe Madison attends the Radio Hall of Fame Class of 2019 Induction Ceremony at Gotham Hall on November 8, 2019, in New York City. | Source: Michael Kovac / Getty

Joe Madison, the award-winning radio legend and social activist also known as “The Black Eagle” whose eponymous live morning show helped bring attention to pressing human and civil rights issues, died Tuesday following a yearslong battle with prostate cancer. He was 74.

Madison’s family confirmed the death in a statement on Wednesday.

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of our beloved husband and father, Joe Madison. He passed away peacefully at home surrounded by family,” the family statement said in a social media post shared by Sirius XM Urban View, where Madison worked for the last 15 years.

Madison’s family urged his followers to continue “to be proactive in the fight against injustice.”

 

Madison was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009. It went into remission following treatment. But he announced in December that the cancer had returned last year.

People like Vice President Kamala Harris and fellow media veteran Roland Martin were among notable individuals fondly recalling Madison’s life and offering condolences in a series of tributes on social media.

 

“We lost a true friend yesterday,” fellow radio veteran Donnie Simpson said on X, formerly Twitter. “Joe Madison, ‘The Black Eagle,’ was a radio legend and freedom fighter. He was as committed to issues that affected Black America as anyone I’ve ever known.”

The radio host had taken to the digital airwaves Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. since 2008 up until the months before his death.

He was known for asking his listeners one eight-word question: “What are you going to do about it?”

During his radio career spanning more than 40 years, Madison collected a series of impressive accolades and awards including being inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2019.

Madison is also a Guinness World Record holder stemming from him staying on the air for 52 straight hours to raise money for the Smithsonian African American History and Culture Museum. As such, Madison holds the record for the Longest Marathon Hosting a Radio Talk Show.

Before his radio career, Madison climbed the ranks of the NAACP, rising from being Detroit’s youngest chapter leader at age 24 to eventually becoming the National Political Director and finally serving on the nation’s oldest civil rights organization’s National Board of Directors for 14 years.

When Madison made the transition to radio, he brought with him that same spirit of activism he embodied at the NAACP.

For instance, Madison was front and center when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed the Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act at the U.S. Capitol in 2022. The legislation was ultimately signed into law by President Joe Biden and made lynching a federal hate crime.

House Speaker Pelosi Holds Enrollment Ceremony For Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) signs the Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act during a bill enrollment ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on March 16, 2022, in Washington, D.C. Joe Madison is on the far right. | Source: Drew Angerer / Getty

Madison also offered up his show as a vehicle through which high-profile Black officials could deliver their messages to his loyal audience, like when California Rep. Maxine Waters visited Joe Madison’s show to call out Black voters who cast ballots for Donald Trump’s failed reelection campaign in 2020.

It was also on Madison’s show that former President Barack Obama told listeners he would take a COVID-19 vaccine approved by Dr. Anthony Fauci – a move that prompted Obama’s predecessors, former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, to say they would also be willing to publicly take the vaccine with Obama to inspire public trust and support amid reports of vaccine hesitancy, particularly in the Black community.

Madison also scored an exclusive interview with Omarosa Manigault-Newman as the radio legend grilled the former reality TV show contestant-turned Trump White House adviser about her past interactions with the 45th president.

“Has Donald Trump ever hit on you?” Madison asked Manigault-Newman in the 2018 interview, to which she responded: “Uh, Donald Trump hits on all women — ”

Madison interjected, “Yeah, well, you are a woman. Has Donald Trump ever hit on you?”

Manigault-Newman answered, “Yes, I’m included in that number of women who Donald Trump has said inappropriate things, has looked at inappropriately.”

Although Madison had no problem booking high-profile guests like the aforementioned, there were plenty of instances in which he took it upon himself to place a brighter spotlight on issues he felt needed answers.

Case in point: In 1996, Madison began a weekslong on-air campaign against the Central Intelligence Agency and accusing it of flooding Black neighborhoods with crack cocaine in the 1980s.

The Washington Post reported at the time:

Madison has based his on-air campaign on a series of articles that appeared last month in the San Jose Mercury News. The newspaper reported that cocaine was smuggled into the United States and sold to minorities in Los Angeles to raise money for the Nicaraguan contras, then fighting to overthrow their country’s leftist government.

When he started talking about it in late August, Madison said, “I’m not giving up on this thing. Every day on my show, I will discuss some aspect of this story and demand my listeners take action.”

Madison also wielded his wide influence to affect change outside of the U.S., including calling on the Chinese government to help pressure Sudan into stopping the genocide in Darfur in 2007.

In late 2021, Madison launched a 74-day hunger strike as part of a broader demand for voting rights legislation that has still proven elusive more than two years later.

BET News reported at the time:

“I realized, do I continue the hunger strike or do I end the hunger strike? And I made a note to myself that I’m ending the hunger strike,” Madison said on his radio program on Thursday. “That’s the announcement – as of today.”

He added: “People will ask, ‘Was the 70+ days of my hunger strike worth the effort?’ The answer is, yes. Today an entire generation now knows more about the Senate filibuster. They now know more about how their vote or their votes are. They now know the major differences between Republicans and Democrats.

“They now know that our democracy is fragile,” Madison continued. “They also now know that just as how food is essential to maintaining life, the right to vote is essential to maintaining our democracy.”

Born in Dayton, Ohio, on June 16, 1949, Madison went on to become a star football player at Washington University in St. Louis, where he was a running back. Washington University is also where Madison got his first official taste of the radio life while working as a DJ for his campus station before becoming the first person in his family to graduate from college, according to a biography on his website.

Following his tenure at the NAACP, Madison began working at the WXYZ radio station in Detroit before subsequent stops in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., where his program was syndicated on Radio One, which is now known as Urban One. NewsOne is part of iOne Digital, an online division owned and operated by Urban One.

Madison is survived by his wife, Sharon, of more than 45 years, four adult children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

SEE ALSO:

Dexter Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Youngest Son, Dies At 62

Sekou Odinga, Movement Elder And Former Political Prisoner Who Freed Assata Shakur, Dies At 79

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