The late radio disc jockey Herbert Rogers Kent is being remembered as a gentleman who changed the sound of radio forever.
After nearly a 30-year career at 102.7 FM (V103), “The Cool Gent,” as he was often called, signed off Saturday for the final time before passing away at age 88.
“Herb was an iconic talent, who for nearly 70 years entertained millions of listeners in Chicagoland and around the world,” Matt Scarano, region president of iHeartMedia Chicago, noted in a statement.
In August, Kent was inducted into the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.
Those that followed his career, which began when he was 16, said while they are sad he is gone, they are glad he left many memories behind.
Melody Spann-Cooper, chairman of Midway Broadcasting Company, which owns WVON AM radio, said the legendary disc jockey was always “Uncle Kent” to her.
“I was very young when he worked at WVON with my father Pervis Spann but I remember growing up listening to him on the radio,” recalled Spann-Cooper. “And even as an older man to my age group he still appealed to a younger audience. He will never be replaced because he elevated from being a disc jockey to a broadcaster.”
While at WVON from 1962 to 1970, Kent collaborated with radio personalities Pervis Spann, Franklin McCarthy, E. Rodney Jones and Wesley South to comprise an on-air group known as “The Good Guys.”
As a resident of the former Ida B. Wells public housing complex in Bronzeville on the South Side, Kent became synonymous with the community and was dubbed the “Mayor of Bronzeville.”
Chicago’s Deputy Mayor Andrea Zopp recalled her days when she was on his “Battle of the Bands” segment broadcast every year on V103.
“Herb Kent had an amazing voice and everyone misses him already. He was fun to listen to and made a positive impact on Chicago,” said Zopp. “The ‘Baby Boom’ generation will especially miss him because he was one of the last ‘ole school’ disc jockeys around.”
Elected officials from Cook County and Springfield to the City Council said they too share Zopp’s memories of Kent, who also taught broadcasting and communications at Chicago State University.
The 1995 National Radio Hall inductee is being remembered by Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County Dorothy Brown as an iconic figure within the black community.
“With the passing of Herb Kent we have lost an irreplaceable icon of our community,” Brown said.
On Oct. 5 Kent celebrated his 88th birthday and Brown said she saw him for the last time a few days later.
“He was always supportive and willing to give back to the community. On Oct. 8, Herb generously chose to broadcast live for the Jesse Jackson Sr. birthday celebration at Rainbow/PUSH,” said Brown. “He loved people and music, worked hard, demonstrated excellence and enjoyed every minute to the very end.”
Alderman Emma Mitts (37th), whose ward includes Austin, described Kent as a legacy that will never be duplicated.
“I felt like I knew him since I have listened to him my entire life. I remember hearing him on the radio when I was a little girl living in Arkansas,” said Mitts. “Herb Kent was known not only in Chicago, but the whole world.”
State Rep. LaSahwn Ford (8th Dist), whose district includes the West Side, added that Kent’s deeds were pleasing to the Lord because he made life better for so many people.
“The business of radio has changed but Herb Kent remained the same,” he said. “He was a class act and one that will be hard to follow moving forward.”
A funeral will be held 10 a.m. Saturday at House of Hope, 752 E. 114th St., Chicago. A wake will be held at 9 a.m. A viewing is scheduled for 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at Robey Park Manor Funeral Home, 2510 Chicago Rd., Chicago Heights.