Described as “iconoclastic and bombastic,” Bryant was a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists and the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. He was a veteran broadcaster and media consultant as well as a writer, filmmaker and artist. Bryant died on Monday, April 5, 2010, in Philadelphia., of cancer. He was 68.
With more than three decades in broadcasting in the Philadelphia area, Bryant’s radio following made him a staple in the homes and lives of thousands who affectionately called him “The Doctor.” Those who tuned in religiously to Bryant’s show on WURD did so because of his skillfully conducted verbal surgery on a variety of hot topics. He also worked for WPEN and WMGK.
“Reggie was a true intellectual and provocateur,” said close friend and fellow NABJ Founder Acel Moore, Associate Editor Emeritus at The Philadelphia Inquirer. He was involved in convergence ahead of its time. He had capacity to make people rethink some issues in a different way. We worked together putting print and broadcasting together.”
NABJ Founder Paul H. Brock said Bryant had a tremendous impact on his life. “He was a constant defender and supporter of me,” said Brock, former news director WHUR in Washington. “He was a fighter, even with bouts in and out of the hospital he was still doing his show, informing his community, fighting battles for his community. He backed down to no one. He always spoke truth to power.”
“I was thrilled to see Reggie and have a conversation with him at the Tampa convention last year,” said current NABJ President Kathy Times, Anchor/Investigative Reporter with Fox 40 News at 9, Jackson, Miss. “His voice and his spirit were strong. I was inspired by his presence, perseverance, strength and deep-rooted commitment to NABJ.”
Bryant’s broadcast practice expanded into a groundbreaking television interview program, “Black Perspectives on the News,” a news program on WHYY in Philadelphia that featured prominent newsmakers from 1973-78. The PBS program expanded “The Doctor’s” reach to more than 170 stations across the nation. This was a journalistic first.
“Reggie was a journalist who roared,” said Arthur Fennell, NABJ Past President and Executive Producer/Anchor, The Comcast Network. “He was a man of passion and intellect deeply connected to our community and represented our concerns better than anybody I know.”
“He leaves a legacy of great admiration and respect.” Fennell said.
Recently retired WURD General Manager Kernie Anderson said Bryant’s impact was not only on WURD, but on other radio stations and also on public radio, public television and wherever he broadcast and or wrote. “Reggie was a true journalist to say nothing of his film credits. Up until his death, he was still sketching. Reggie was truly a renaissance man. He was an athlete, a writer, a scholar. He did it all. He was sharp-witted, and he would strike you down with his tongue,” Anderson said.
“Anyone who came in contact with Reggie left the experience wiser and enlightened. You had to rise to the occasion to be around Reggie. He was very compassionate and a real nice person. Having managed many broadcasters, Reggie was at the top. He brought his game, and all around him benefited from that.”
Jerry Mondesire, a founding member Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and president of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP, described Bryant as an “iconoclastic and bombastic” champion of the community.
“He was a wordsmith who loved throwing big words at people and watching them squirm.”
Moore remembered Bryant as a “facile speaker and writer.”
“He understood words and could go head to head with the best of them. If he had a confrontation with a mosquito, he would use a sledge hammer. His thing was the use of language. But he was also a caring man who mentored people and that often surprised people. He never enriched himself or used his talent to gain money for himself.”
“I loved him as a brother. A lot of people in Philadelphia will miss his intellect and conversation. I am going to miss him.”
Les Payne, NABJ Past President, commented: “Reggie was a true pioneer; especially with the “Black Perspective on The News” show. It was the equal of “Meet the Press;” and many a day was superior thanks to Reggie’s keen insight and sharp retort. Reggie lives on in all of us.”
Bryant was well connected at the grassroots level, and once proclaimed that the founding of PABJ was something the early journalists were “forced to do.”
“There was absolutely blatant racism in the city’s newsrooms,” Bryant said. “The newsrooms were all white at the newspapers, radio and television, and those blacks who were in got terrible treatment.” He saw the organization as one that could be an advocate for black journalists who were being treated unfairly by their companies. He also hoped that the group would become a major force in making the industry more accountable.
Bryant attended Temple University where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Science in Education, and Master of Fine Arts. He also earned a Master Film Teacher certification from the American Film Institute. Bryant was an active member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.
During his long career, Bryant interviewed five U.S. presidents, 52 Pulitzer Prize winning authors and had been commended by hundreds of organizations for his community service. He was recognized by the National Association of Broadcast Journalists as a “Legend Who Lived It.” The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists recognized Mr. Bryant with a Trailblazer Award in 2006.
A 2009 tribute for Bryant drew more than 400 people from across Philadelphia.
In addition to his journalistic career, close friend and fellow PABJ Founder Elmer Smith said Bryant was renowned in the Philadelphia arts for his skill as an artist. His landscapes, still lifes and portraits are included in a number of prestigious collections, Smith said. “When I met him, he was an art lecturer at the Lee Cultural Center in West Philadelphia. He had the uncanny ability to explain conceptually the work of the great masters to teenagers who had no background in art,” said Smith, a columnist at the Philadelphia Daily News.
“I can never forget that Reggie and Acel Moore gave me a chance to appear on their nationally syndicated show at a time when I was still learning my craft. They created an opportunity that would not have been open to me and other young journalists if they had not insisted on our inclusion,” Smith said.
We at NABJ will forever be indebted to Reggie’s commitment as one of the 44 founders of the leading organization for journalists of color. Our honoring an “NABJ Legend” is but a small gesture of our long-term commitment to upholding the founding principles of our association.
NABJ Vice President-Print Deirdre Childress, an editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer said Bryant “inspired journalists – and community members – to hold to their principles and to hold our positions as well, never backing down.”
“Reginald Bryant’s voice inspired and educated,” said Sarah Glover, PABJ president and a Philadelphia Daily News photographer. “He masterfully weaved activism and journalism on his radio shows. Mr. Bryant was a broadcasting giant who had a direct impact on the community and blazed a trail for black journalists in radio and television. His passing leaves a void on the radio airwaves in Philadelphia and beyond.”
Bryant is survived by two daughters and a son.
Funeral arrangements are pending.