Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton among mourners honoring legendary DJ Pervis Spann, ‘The Blues Man’
Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and Father Michael Pfleger were just some of the notable speakers to honor the former WVON disc jockey at his funeral Wednesday.
At a South Side church Wednesday afternoon, Rev. Jesse Jackson regaled a crowd of mourners with a story about listening to the radio.
“I was driving in Chicago one morning … and I heard the Good Guys on the radio: Rodney Jones, Herb Kent, and Pervis Spann — the Blues Man,” Jackson said to a captive audience. As he spoke the last name, the audience applauded.
Jackson was among many who gathered at Apostolic Church of God, 6320 S. Dorchester Ave., to remember Spann, the legendary disc jockey.
Spann, known by many for his longtime show on WVON radio, died March 14 from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 89. On Wednesday, 25 wreaths and bouquets surrounded him, and a folded American flag perched against the casket lid declared Spann, one last time, as “The Blues Man.”
Pastor Byron Brazier, Rev. Al Sharpton and Father Michael Pfleger led the family procession into service. As the family paid their respects to Spann — some with bowed heads, others holding hands — mourners clapped in time with the band and choir’s rendition of Walter Hawkins’ “Thank You.”
Spann served in the Army, and an honor guard was on hand to fold the flag that had draped his casket, and present it to Lovie, Spann’s wife of 67 years.
Those speaking at the ceremony painted a picture Spann as a dedicated entrepreneur who set out to uplift his community.
“He was an extremely ambitious man and his ambition was not only for himself, but also for us,” said Chanté Spann, Spann’s daughter.
“He worked himself up from being a sharecropper to being the owner of multiple radio stations,” she continued. “He fought for things he believed in. ... He loved life and he lived his life the way he wanted to.”
Living life the way he wanted meant a broadcast career that spanned more than 60 years. Spann co-founded Midway Broadcasting Corp. and became a voice for Black Americans everywhere.
Rev. Pfleger, who led the opening prayer, said Spann “refused to be limited by boundaries or ceilings or societal barriers.” Spann, he added had an “unending commitment to the Black community” that gave “a voice to a community that still is too often neglected by mainstream media.”
It was that commitment that Rev. Sharpton focused on in his own tribute.
“He gave us a megaphone we never had,” Rev. Sharpton said. “He did not only change Chicago, he changed Black America and therefore the nation and that’s why we’re here today with his family. Not to mourn him, but to thank him.”
Spann promoted Black politics, power and culture, all of which led to changing social landscapes, including the election of Harold Washington, Chicago’s first Black mayor, as well as Barack Obama. The former president and First Lady acknowledged Spann’s impact in a letter to the family, read by Chanté Spann.
Other attendees included music influencer George Daniels; Leslie South, daughter of Spann’s business partner Wesley South; former City Council member Dorothy Tillman; and U.S. Reps. Danny Davis and Bobby Rush.
From the many flowers delivered to the service, the family gave each woman a rose to take home.
“He enriched the community with so much knowledge and giving back,” said one of the mourners, Jacqui Whittmon said it was “a blessing” to have known Spann and to bring home a piece of Wednesday’s service.
In his eulogy, Rev. Otis Moss III declared Spann “one of the Greats of Chicago” who will go down not just in the history of Black Chicago, but the entire city.
“When the history of this city is written … they will call the roll and mention our Haitian founder named Du Sable,” said Moss as mourners jumped to their feet and applauded. “They will speak of Richard Wright and talk about Gwendolyn Brooks. They will talk about Pullman porters and Harold Washington, Buddy Guy, Lily Barrow, Bessie Coleman, Sam Cooke and many reverends. They will mention Jesse Jackson, they will talk about Bishop Brazier, they will speak of Barack and Michelle Obama but they had better call the name Pervis Spann!”