Local News

Former WRAL Host J.D. Lewis Dead at 87

Posted February 18, 2007

— Local broadcasting legend and former WRAL host J.D. Lewis Jr. died Saturday night at the age of 87.

Lewis suffered from pneumonia at the time of his death. He was one of the honorees at the Triangle Urban League's Legend Award Gala on Friday night.

A Raleigh native who grew up on South Bloodworth Street near Shaw University, Lewis joined Capitol Broadcasting, WRAL's parent company, in 1948 during a broadcasting career that spanned more than four decades. He was best known as the popular host of "Teenage Frolics", a dance program that debuted in 1958.

Lewis attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he was a standout player on the university’s football team. After college, he became one of the first black members of the United States Marine Corps and trained to be a radio technician.

When he left the Corps shortly after World War II, he used his expertise to open a television and radio repair business in Raleigh in 1947. He also built his own mobile sound truck with a public address system that he used for announcing duties at Negro Baseball League games.

Fred Fletcher, then Capitol Broadcasting's general manager for WRAL-AM radio, heard Lewis’ play-by-play announcing in 1948 and knew that he had a voice for radio, he later told WRAL.

“J.D. came to me by reputation,” Fletcher said.

“I went up to the radio station and auditioned with (Fletcher),” Lewis said to WRAL. “And he said, ‘Just tell me some stories. I want to hear you talk.’ And I talked, and afterwards he said, ‘Maybe you and I could do some business.'”

When WRAL made the leap to television in the 1950s, Lewis helped Capitol Broadcasting secure its FCC license. In 1974, Lewis was named the company’s first human resources director. He went on to record editorials for WRAL and served as its first minority affairs director. He retired from the company in 1997.

Lewis was also a community and civic leader and member of numerous boards and organizations around Raleigh. He was survived by four children.

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  • dj3848 Feb 19, 2007

    It's a sad day for me and a lot of others. It was J.D. tht started me in radio the day after I graduated from J.W. Ligonin 1959. J.D. took me under his wings and taught me the business of broadcazting. My condolences to the Lewis family and may God bless you all. J.D.,thanks for all you did for me and may you Rest In Peace.

  • sweet4you Feb 19, 2007


  • xarabee Feb 19, 2007

    Teenage Frolics?! What a blast from the past - I also remember The Peggy Mann Show, The Uncle Paul Show....what am I forgetting?

  • newssaavy72 Feb 19, 2007

    I am only 34, but I remember the show
    'Teenage Frolics' growing up. It was a tasteful way for young people to engage themselves in recreational activity. Condolences to the Lewis family. May God bless you!

  • BlarneyStone Feb 19, 2007

    God Bless him- He sounds like he blessed the Raleigh community. Condolences to his family for their loss.

  • davidgnews Feb 19, 2007

    What a great guy and local broadcasting legend - a great loss to the industry and community.

  • Fence Straddler Feb 19, 2007

    J.D. Lewis Jr. May you Rest In Peace.

  • roger Feb 18, 2007

    I had the honor and pleasure of working with JD at WRAL-TV in the mid to late 1960's on the night time and weekend camera floor crew doing "Teenage Frolics" on Saturdays. JD was always a true southern gentleman and a class act. He was always friendly to everyone and treated everyone with respect. He was a real professional too. JD, you will be missed my friend, and you DID make a difference. You didn't just talk about making this a better place to live, you did something about it! Rest in peace.

  • weasleyes Feb 18, 2007

    He paved the way for the way we all ought to be. Non-racial, color-blind, just simply people! A truly great man!

  • Low Voltage Feb 18, 2007

    One cannot say enough about this wonderful man. He had a charisma many of us wish we had. His accomplishments truly helped us all get through some difficult times. My condolences to his family and friends.
    An admirer!