Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Bill Mason fought for racial equality

Broadcaster spent part of career here

By William A. Weathers
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Bill Mason, an educator, broadcaster, civil rights activist and Cincinnati native, died Sept. 11 at a Cleveland area hospital after suffering a heart attack.

The 64-year-old Cleveland resident was on his way to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport for a flight to San Francisco and the bedside of a dying friend when he collapsed.

"I hope all of us whose lives Bill Mason touched can walk through life with just a little of his passion, intellectual curiosity and dignity," said Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. "Bill was a free spirit, and a good friend," he added. William Allyn Mason was valedictorian of Cincinnati's DePorres High School in 1957.

At Xavier University, Mr. Mason took an active part in voter registration drives for African-Americans in the inner city, and in the successful campaign to open Coney Island amusement park and the Sunlite Pool to African-Americans.

He was a lifelong member of the NAACP, and a member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in the 1960s.

Mr. Mason earned a master's degree in education in 1975 from Harvard University, and a doctoral degree there in administration, planning and social policy in 1982.

After receiving the master's, Mr. Mason joined the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in Washington, D.C., as associate director for station relations. Mr. Mason was ombudsman for 212 public broadcasting stations.

"Bill was a pioneer in the field of bringing minorities into broadcasting,'' said Badi Foster, president of the Phelps-Stokes Fund in Washington, D.C. and former professor in the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

In the 1960s and 1970s in Cincinnati, Mr. Mason's media career included work with WCET-TV, WKRC-TV, and WGUC-FM. At WCET-TV, he was urban affairs director and executive producer and host for a weekly public affairs program.

In the late 1970s, Mr. Mason was deputy director of Vice President Walter Mondale's Task Force on Youth Employment.

In the 1980s, Mr. Mason worked for Aetna, where he designed a nationally acclaimed Saturday Academy for seventh graders from disadvantaged families in Hartford, Conn. In the 1990s, Mr. Mason became distance learning support supervisor for Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, and later general manager of the Cleveland Television Network, the city's community service station, a post he retired from in 2001.

Survivors include two sisters, Alberta Mason of Altadena, Calif., and Mildred Mason of Avondale; and two brothers, Ernest Mason of Washington, D.C., and Andrew Mason of Cincinnati.

Funeral services have been held.

Memorials can be made to Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP, 2500 Kemper Lane, Cincinnati, 45206. Condolences may be expressed at Mr. Mason's memorial Web site: http//www.richardgingras.com/billmason/


E-mail bweathers@enquirer.com

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Bill Mason fought for racial equality