'Like It Is' Producer Gil Noble Is Dead at 80
He developed Like It Is into one of TV's top public-affairs programs focusing on black America.
Noble was promoted to weekend anchor in 1968. He was also an occasional interviewer on some of the station's public-affairs shows, like Eyewitness Exclusive. That same year, after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, the station developed a show -- Like It Is -- that was centered on black America. Actor Robert Hooks was the show's first host, while Noble was the interviewer, but Noble was named the host after Hooks left for an acting job.
The weekly show was mostly entertainment driven until 1975, when Noble became the producer. He switched the show's focus to weightier issues. Over the years, he interviewed leading figures from across the Diaspora, from government and politics to sports and entertainment -- luminaries such as Jamaica's Michael Manley, Guinea's Ahmed Sékou Touré and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe; Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, Louis Farrakhan and Stokely Carmichael; Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Arthur Ashe; and Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne and Dizzy Gillespie.
Noble also started working on documentaries in 1977, which became the focus of his career -- and the most rewarding part of it. Such films, he said, "remain a powerful weapon to change false values, correct historical error and cure the poison of prejudice in the minds of black and white Americans."
His first documentary, The Tallest Tree in Our Forest -- which he wrote, directed and produced -- was on the life of Paul Robeson. He would go on to tell the stories of other historic figures, including W.E.B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Jack Johnson and Charlie Parker.
In 2002, fans helped save Like It Is from cancellation by holding rallies to show their support.
During his career, Noble received more than 650 community awards, seven Emmys, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Black Journalists and five honorary doctorates.
Monée Fields-White is a Los Angeles-based writer.