Ron Sailor Sr., a former prominent TV and radio host in Atlanta, died yesterday at age 61.
He died of a heart attack on the way to church.
In the 1980s, Sailor became the first African-American to serve as commentator for the evening news for a major southern television station on WSB-TV and also the first black host of a local afternoon television program,when he hosted “Backtalk” on 11 Alive.
He has been the pastor of Christ the King Baptist Church in Dacula the past two decades.
He is survived by his wife Marion Sailor, their four sons and two daughters.
Funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Sailor's church. Willie A. Watkins is in charge of funeral arrangements.
"He was a smart guy," said Dick Williams, who worked wtih him on the original WSB-TV show called "Sunday News Conference." "He was aggressive and very well spoken. He would take on people like John Lewis when nobody else would."
Richard Greener, vice president and general manager at WAOK-AM from 1980 to 1985, said Sailor worked there for many years and was news director while Greener was the boss. "I can't recall Ron being anything but happy," he said. "And he had a great sense of humor."
Unfortunately, Sailor became saddled with financial problems that led to his departure from WSB.
He briefly returned to WAOK-AM as morning host when the station became news/talk in 2002.
"He was a legend," said Rob Redding, a former WAOK talk show host. "He was incredibly engaging and loved by the listeners. I grew up watching him on TV. When he had an axe to grind, he could cut you to a thousand pieces. He would refer to me as a whippersnapper. I had to look that up!"
In a story written by my colleague Drew Jubera in 2008, he wrote:
In less than a decade, Sailor went from being one of the most prominent African-American voices on Atlanta TV and radio --- the whole city once chattered about his possible run for mayor --- to what he calls his "self-imposed exile" after years of high living, dubious decisions and bankruptcy.
A kind of hustler journalist in the Geraldo Rivera mold, Sailor was once so close to the city's low streets and halls of power --- from Ben Hill to Buckhead --- that his rise, fall and family tragedies have become their own kind of local morality tale.
One of his sons Ron Jr. pled guilty for laundering money. The other, Tony, was imprisoned for murdering a niece of Sailor Sr.'s wife.
"For 15 years I've been at a delightful church, and I'm married to a good woman who has two kids who tolerate me, " he told Jubera in 2008. "So even with the horrible situation involving Tony and the situation involving Ron, I won't complain.
I will update this with funeral arrangements once I get them.