The first Black television station manager in the United States, William H. Dilday Jr., died on July 27 in Newton, Massachusetts. He was 85 years old at the time of his death.
Erika Dilday, Dilday Jr.’s daughter, confirmed to The New York Times that her father died in the hospital as a result of issues after a fall.
Who was William Dilday Jr?
William H. Dilday Jr., a pioneer in the television industry, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on September 14, 1937. His parents, William Horace Dilday and Alease Virginia Scott raised him.
The renowned Boston Latin School served as the starting point of Dilday’s education. Dilday continued his studies after high school by enrolling at Boston University to earn a Bachelor of Science in business administration.
Dilday began his work at IBM as an operations supervisor in 1964. However, it wasn’t until Dilday joined WHDH-TV in Boston as the director of personnel in 1969 that he truly began to make an impact on the TV industry.
William H. Dilday Jr. encountered many difficulties throughout his career as an African American executive in a predominately white field. Despite the difficulties, he persisted and overcame obstacles that at first appeared insurmountable.
When Dilday took over as general manager of WLBT-TV/WLBM-TV in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1972, it was one of the most prominent hurdles he faced. He was now the first African American general manager of a network affiliate station.
The station saw extraordinary success while he served as the chief operating officer of WLBT-TV/WLBM-TV, constantly ranking first in Nielson and Arbitron ratings from November 1973 to February 1984.
From 1978 to 1979, Dilday presided over the civil rights and service organization Jackson Urban League. He also provided political figures in the region with advice, including Rep. Bennie Thompson, the head of the House of Senate committee looking into the riots on January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol.
Dilday Jr. is now survived by his wife Maxine Wiggins, daughter Erika, son Scott Sparrow and four grandchildren.