‘World’s greatest’ Herb Kent’s life celebrated

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Hundred of people gathered at the House of Hope in Pullman Saturday morning to celebrate the life of legendary disk jockey Herb Kent. | Sam Charles/Sun-Times

Thousands of people gathered at the House of Hope arena Saturday morning to pay their last respects to iconic Chicago disc jockey Herb Kent.

One of the local radio legend’s former producers, “Cadillac” Seth McCormick, said Kent was not only “the world’s greatest on-air personality,” but “the greatest disc jockey in the universe.”

Kent’s grandson, Evan, said of all the ways his grandfather was described by well-wishers, his favorite was “granddad.”

Radio personality Herb Kent, pictured in 2009. | Photo by Ken Bedford

Radio personality Herb Kent, pictured in 2009. | Photo by Ken Bedford

“He never once pressured me to get into radio, not one time. This man encouraged me to be my own man,” Evan said. “And because of kings like [Herb], young kings like myself … we’re not a statistic.”

Several elected officials sent their regards, including President Barack Obama.

Melody Spann Cooper, chair of WVON’s parent company, read Obama’s statement, which said, “Thanks to his voice, more African Americans had one.”

Obama referred to Kent as, “A kid from the projects with a voice that would project across a city and a nation.”

Kent, known affectionately as “The Cool Gent,” died at age 88 last Saturday, hours after his show ended on WVAZ-FM.

Several mourners at the Pullman house of worship spoke not only about Kent’s accomplishments in radio, but his work to foster young talent in the broadcasting industry.

Among the speakers was Gov. Bruce Rauner, who praised Kent’s ability to weave spirituality into his work.

“He strove for excellence, and he did the Lord’s work because of it,” Rauner said. “Not only was he a craftsman who strove for excellence, but he took the opportunity to go beyond that and use his voice for what is right and what is good and what is just.”

Kent’s work in radio helped launch the musical careers of greats such as The Temptations, Curtis Mayfield, Smokey Robinson and others.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel wasn’t in attendance for the funeral, though he visited with Kent’s family earlier in the day.

Derrick Brown, the program director of WVAZ, read a proclamation from the mayor’s office that officially declared Oct. 29 as Herb Kent Day in Chicago.

Charles Henry, who had first met Kent in 1962 at a sock hop Kent organized, said his radio presence was a unifying one.

“He brought people together through music, through love,” Henry, of Englewood, said. “There’s none other like him. There never will be another like him.”

Editor’s Note: Derrick Brown is the program director of WVAZ. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated his station.

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