Joseph “Joe” Dyer, the trailblazer
The community has lost an icon and an activist, and television news has lost a standard bearer in media journalism. He was a pioneer journalist who broke racial barriers
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor
and Francis Taylor
Sentinel Staff Writer
Affectionately known as Joe Dyer, Joseph Dyer, was a fixture at CBS for about 30 years.
He was a former television news writer and community affairs director for KCBS Channel 2, in Los Angeles, California. At 76, Dyer had his home-going in the early morning hours of February 24, 2011; his wife of 50 years, Doris, and one of his daughters, Kimberly, were at his bedside at Good Samaritan Hospital when he transitioned.
Born on September 24, 1934, in Gilbert, Louisiana, Dyer was the only son of Joe Dyer, Sr. and Barbara Fletcher. At the age of two, his family moved to Bogalusa, Louisiana, and when his father passed at the age of nine, Dyer became the “the little man of the house,” helping his hearing-impaired mother with the care of his four younger sisters, Eula Beatrice (who transitioned at 11 months), Vergie Lee, Shirley Mae, and Barbara Jean. Now they are left to savor his memory. Dyer’s mother had very little education and picked cotton to supplement the public assistance she received to provide for her family.
Because of her hearing impediment, Dyer picked cotton alongside his mother, which often caused him to miss school. However, many of the teachers were neighbors who volunteered to tutor him during the summers, enabling him to maintain his grades. At the age of 15, his mother met and married Edward Parker, or as he was known to Dyer, “Mr. Ed.” Dyer was then able to return to his youth, surrendering his “man of the house” position to his stepfather.
An all-state football player on the state championship team at Central Memorial High School, Dyer received numerous football scholarship offers and selected Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana, to be able to remain close to his family. Dyer’s football career was brief, however, due to an injury. Later reflecting on the “hit” that knocked a tooth out and cracked a rib, Dyer said. “I love football; I’m just not willing to die for it.” He then transferred to Grambling College – now University – where he rekindled his interest in drama, his other passion and one in which he excelled throughout high school.
Dyer won numerous first-place awards in orations and dramatic monologues across the state of Louisiana. In his sophomore year at Grambling, he met then high school senior, Doris Dillon, at a dance. Their three-year, long-distance relationship was interrupted following his graduation from Grambling and enlistment in the U.S. Air Force, where he was honorably after serving with distinction for four years. His journalism career began while in the military as editor of the military base newspaper and producer of a local Air Force public affairs television show, Scramble, Dyer’s journalistic path began to take shape. At the same time, he won awards for his short stories, and regional and divisional talent show honors for his dramatic monologues. Dyer was named “Airman of the Month” twice and “Airman of the Year” once.
Also while in the military, he rekindled his relationship with Dillon, who had graduated from Southern University. On December 29, 1960, they began their life-long journey in marriage, and last December, they celebrated their 50th anniversary. One month later, the couple re-affirmed their vows at a special anniversary party, provided by their children.
Two months after the birth of their first daughter, Monica, Dyer was honorably discharged from the Air Force and relocated his family to Southern California. He worked a few years as a technical editor for Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Although he had a strong background in writing and television production, his primary passion was the dramatic arts, saying of his move to Los Angeles, “I was going to be the next Sidney Poitier.” That dream was not meant to be. It was at Studio West, a popular Los Angeles night spot, where Dyer met Cassius Weathersby, a fellow dramatist and activist with the Beverly Hills NAACP who convinced Dyer to seek a position with KNXT, now KCBS. Dyer accepted their employment offer and made history.
In April 1965, Dyer became the first African-American journalist hired by a Los Angeles network owned and operated television station. During his 30 years with the local CBS station, Dyer scored many historic “firsts”: 1) The first African American promoted into the station’s senior management ranks, 2) the first African-American department head, and 3) the first African American to broadcast station editorials. At one time, Dyer wrote, produced and hosted a half-hour public affairs broadcast, People’s Corner.
When Dyer retired in June, 1995, he was credited with receiving over 185 awards for outstanding community service, including the prestigious Abe Lincoln Award from the Southern Baptists, for his citywide campaign for Sickle Cell Anemia, and an NAACP Image Award. He said, “You don’t retire from something; you retire into something.” He was also involved in community affairs as a board member of the Brotherhood Crusade.
After having ran six marathons, Dyer has also published two books – a memoir, A Retired Black Television Broadcaster’s LIFETIME OF MEMORIES: From the Cotton Fields to CBS, and Emily Dutton’s Secret Medallion, a historical fiction novel for young readers, inspired by the life of Harriet Tubman.
At the time of Dyer’s death, he was in the final editing phase of his third book, an inspirational memoir on overcoming health challenges. Dyer, the Black pioneer journalist who broke-through racial barriers and paved the way for countless others, is survived by his wife, three daughters, one son, Joe III; three grandchildren, Nicholas, Melanie, Christian; two sisters; one uncle; and a host of relatives and friends, who will forever cherish his memory.
Publisher Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. who knew Dyer for many years and worked with him at the Brotherhood Crusade said, “Joe was a pioneer, in the truest sense of the word. He blazed a trail in television journalism and made the way for the many African Americans who currently dot the television landscape. Joe was indeed a man among men, one of the brightest stars in the heavens and one of the tallest trees in the forest.”
Charisse Bremond-Weaver, the current president of the Brotherhood Crusade was very clear about Dyer’s work and his worth for had it not been for stalwarts like him, the Brotherhood Crusade would not have survive to be led by her. She said, “Joe Dyer’s work came at a time when the community was in need and he rose to the occasion. So long Joe.”