Lorenzo 'Lo' Jelks, Atlanta's First Black TV Reporter, Dead at 83

Lo Jelks, who became Atlanta's first Black TV reporter in 1967, was inducted into the Atlanta Press Club Hall of Fame in 2022

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Lorenzo “Lo” Jelks. Photo: George Pimentel/Shutterstock

Lorenzo "Lo" Jelks, who became Atlanta's first Black TV reporter after joining a local station in the 1960s, has died. He was 83.

News of Jelks' death was confirmed by CNN affiliate WSB-TV, the station he worked at for nearly a decade, as well as the Atlanta Press Club. Per the station, his family has not yet commented on his cause of death.

Opening up about his legacy in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last year, Jelks reflected on getting hired by the station in 1967.

"Once (WSB) took that opportunity of going with someone green like me, someone who had never been inside a television station, I think perhaps that helped with the other stations," he told the newspaper.

Jelks got his start in radio when he was in high school, hosting a weekly music show in St. Petersburg, Fla., according to WSB-TV and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

He went on to graduate from Clark College, now known as Clark Atlanta University, and was working as an operations manager at an Atlanta music station when he was contacted by WSB-TV, per the outlets.

When he was hired, he said station managers told him he was given the job in part because the station needed a Black reporter, but that he would not strictly be covering stories related to the Black community, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

For the first year, he was not actually seen on air, the outlet reported. Instead, viewers saw the words "Lorenzo Jelks reporting" over a black screen.

"I didn't complain about it because I didn't have any control over it," he told the newspaper.

Throughout his career at the station, where he stayed until 1976, Jelks notably interviewed former President Jimmy Carter during his 1970 gubernatorial run, which he won, per AJC. He also interviewed Ku Klux Klan leaders before a rally.

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After leaving the station, although Jelks had offers to become an anchor or join NBC News, he turned his sights back to radio, according to the newspaper.

"Jelks returned to radio by creating WAUC-AM, a station committed to showcasing Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and The AUC Digest, a newspaper serving the Atlanta University Center," according to the Atlanta Press Club. "His legacy will live on with the 2023 Lorenzo 'Lo' Jelks Communications and Marketing Internship sponsored by the Georgia Power Foundation."

After news of his death was confirmed, Gov. Brian Kemp shared a tribute on social media.

"As someone who made history for our state, he paved the way for other African Americans in media during a pivotal time," Kemp wrote on Saturday. "As we pray for his loved ones, we're also remembering his valued contributions."

In 2022, Jelks' career and achievements were celebrated when he was inducted into the Atlanta Press Club Hall of Fame.

"[We're] so grateful that he's had an opportunity to be celebrated so much in the last several months of his life," his family said in a statement to WSB-TV. "Thank you all for your kindness, friendship and support of him."

Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced, his family told the station.

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