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Civil Rights Activist And Radio Icon Joe Madison Dies At 74

Civil rights activist and longtime radio host Joe Madison has died. He was 74.

Madison’s family announced his death in a statement shared on social media on Thursday, saying the influential radio host died “peacefully at home surrounded by family.”

“Joe dedicated his life to fighting for all those who are undervalued, underestimated and marginalized,” the statement read. “On air he often posed the question, ‘What are you going to do about it?’”

“Although he is no longer with us, we hope you will join us in answering that call by continuing to be proactive in the fight against injustice,” the statement continued. “The outpouring of prayers and support over the last few months lifted Joe’s spirits.”

Madison, known as “The Black Eagle,” is survived by his wife, Sharon, and their four children.

The influential radio host most recently hosted a morning weekday show on SiriusXM Urban View called, “Joe Madison The Black Eagle.” He announced in December he was taking some time away from the show, after the prostate cancer he’d initially been diagnosed with in 2009 returned.

“Upon preparing to return from the Thanksgiving hiatus my health took an adverse turn, making it challenging to host a four-hour, live show every day,” Madison said in a statement at the time.

Madison, born in Dayton, Ohio, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Washington University in St. Louis.

He became the youngest executive director of the Detroit branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at age 24, the organization states.

He was later appointed as the organization’s national political director, and was then elected to the national board of directors, where he served from 1986 to 1999. He was appointed chairman of the NAACP Image Awards in 1996.

Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is photographed holding up bill, the
Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is photographed holding up bill, the

Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is photographed holding up bill, the "Emmett Till Antilynching Act," next to former congressman Bobby Rush, congressman Steny Hoyer and Joe Madison during a signing ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2022.

Madison’s civil rights advocacy has been well-documented through his work with the NAACP and throughout his time on the airwaves.

The veteran host, who began his radio career in 1980 in Detroit, used his platform to call attention to various issues, including the Sudanese genocide in the early 2000s, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and efforts to curtail voting rights.

In 2015, Madison raised funds for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture by hosting a 52-hour on-air broadcast. He raised more than $250,000, the museum said.

He went on a 73-day hunger strike in 2021 to encourage congress to pass voting rights legislation.

“Just as food is essential for the existence of life, voting is essential for the existence of democracy,” he told CNN at the time.

Madison also fiercely pushed for the passage of The Emmett Till Antilynching Act, a bill to formally make lynching a federal hate crime, which was signed into law in 2022.

Madison was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2019.

President Joe Biden mourned Madison’s death in a statement on Thursday on X, formerly Twitter, calling Madison “the voice of a generation.”

“Whether it was a hunger strike for voting rights or his advocacy for anti-lynching legislation that I was proud to sign in 2022, Joe fought hard against injustice,” he wrote.

Tributes from other elected officials and journalists have continued to pour in:

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