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Joe Madison, “The Black Eagle,” Radio Hall of Famer, Human & Civil Rights Activist and Author. Photo: joemadison.com
Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
Published: 08 February 2024

Tributes continued to pour in throughout Friday for Joe Madison, the talk show host, activist and philanthropist known as “The Black Eagle.” After a lengthy bout with prostate cancer, the popular SiriusXM host died on Feb. 1. He was 74.

Madison’s death comes as America observes the start of Black History Month. Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), stated, “On behalf of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, representing the Black Press of America, we express our profound condolences to the family of Joe Madison. As a trailblazer and consistent freedom fighter journalist and broadcaster, Joe Madison embodied the essence and courage to speak truth to power.”

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris also offered their thoughts. “Whether it was a hunger strike for voting rights or his advocacy for anti-lynching legislation that I was proud to sign in 2022, Joe fought hard against injustice,” Biden stated. Madison aligned his platform with his purpose, Harris added. “Through his decades-long career in radio, he championed the fight for equity and justice. Our nation is better because of his voice.”

According to his official bio, the native of Dayton, Ohio, was an All-Conference running back at Washington University in St. Louis where he was also a baritone soloist in the university choir and a disc jockey at the campus radio station. He earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology, becoming the first person in his family to graduate college.

At age 24, he became the youngest executive director of the NAACP’s Detroit branch before being appointed the organization’s National Political Director and eventually being elected to the National Board of Directors where he served for 14 years. During his tenure at the NAACP, Madison led hundreds of volunteers on a series of successful voter registration marches, including a cross-country “March for Dignity” from Los Angeles to Baltimore. The marches garnered thousands of signatures for an anti-apartheid bill in Congress.

Madison’s radio career began in 1980 at Detroit’s WXYZ. He continued his broadcast journey to WWDB in Philadelphia, WWRC and WOL in Washington, DC. The popularity of his WOL program led to syndication on the Radio One Talk Network and its XM satellite channel which merged with Sirius to become SiriusXM in 2008. In 2023, Madison celebrated his 15th anniversary with SiriusXM.

In 2015, Madison set the Guinness World Record for the longest on-air broadcast, 52 hours. During the record-breaking show, he raised more than $250,000 for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Five months later, Madison made history again by broadcasting live from Cuba and becoming the first American radio host to do so in more than 50 years.

In 2021, Madison went on a 73-day hunger strike to encourage passage of voting rights bills. Unbeknownst to his listeners, he was fighting prostate cancer during his hunger strike. When asked if he understood the danger he was in, he replied, “I am willing to die.”

His bio further noted that a few months after his hunger strike, the Emmett Till Antilynching Act passed in the Senate with the help of Madison’s continued push on the radio. His efforts were noticed by many, including the then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who publicly thanked him for another fight for justice.

Madison and his wife Sharon have been married for more than 45 years and they currently reside in Washington, D.C. Their blended family includes four children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

In a statement, Madison’s family invited fans and friends to send condolences. “Joe dedicated his life to fighting for all those who are undervalued, underestimated, and marginalized. On air he often posed the question, ‘What are you going to do about it?’. Although he is no longer with us, we hope you will join us in answering that call by continuing to be proactive in the fight against injustice. The outpouring of prayers and support over the last few months lifted Joe’s spirits and strengthened us as a family. We continue to ask for privacy as we gather together to support each other through this difficult time.”

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