On Saturday, April 7, Mike Wallace, the CBS Newsman, died at 93 in New Canaan, Conn. Two days before Wallace’s death, Gil Noble, who for more than forty years was the host of “Like It Is,” on WABC-TV made his transition.
Both were probing journalists with long years in the media spotlight where they came in contact with a multitude of world notables. Longevity is not the only thing they had in common.
They were versatile newsmen; willing to ask the hard questions and unwilling to forego an iota of integrity and objectivity.
One person in particular comes to mind when I think of them—Malcolm X.
In 1959, Wallace, along with Louis Lomax, was instrumental in producing a special on the Nation of Islam entitled “The Hate That Hate Produced.” That show brought considerable attention to the NOI and provided Malcolm with a platform that would only expand until his assassination in 1965.
Noble often recounted his experiences with Malcolm, beginning with how utterly intimidated and fearful he was of the human rights leader.
“I have to admit he terrified me,” Noble said. “He was not afraid to call white folks devils and that made me keep my distance from him. Later, after I got to know him better I wasn’t as fearful of him.”
If Wallace was to feature Malcolm in his documentary, Noble was the first to offer a full documentary devoted completely to Malcolm’s ascendancy.
“The documentary was the first ever produced on Malcolm,” Noble recalled in his memoir, Black Is the Color of My TV Tube. “It received critical acclaim. The show was put into distribution and sold to schools and colleges across the nation and the world.”
His subsequent documentaries on Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and Paul Robeson were equally well done and they stand as a testament to the priceless value of the archives he leaves behind.
Of course, Wallace during his many years at CBS and particularly as a correspondent for “60 Minutes” completed his share of documentaries, both long and short.
They were formidable commentators and communicators and it is difficult to believe the likes of them will ever be seen on television again telling it like it is.
Noble’s funeral service is tentatively scheduled for Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem this coming Thursday, but that is still unconfirmed.