Local News

Former WRAL Host J.D. Lewis Dead at 87

Posted February 18, 2007 12:25 p.m. EST
Updated February 18, 2007 8:03 p.m. EST

— 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.