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Journalism pioneer Ernest Tucker inducted into CBC Hall of Fame

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Inducted: The Royal Gazette's first black reporter, Ernest Tucker, left Bermuda for Canada in 1960 and quickly landed a job at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Montreal office and took up a teaching position at nearby John Abbott College (Photograph by Meredith Ebbin)
A life of firsts: Ernest Tucker, pictured while at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (photo supplied)

Bermudian journalist Ernest Tucker has been inducted into the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Hall of Fame.

The posthumous honour was awarded at a virtual ceremony yesterday.

Mr Tucker, who died last year aged 87, had a stellar career with the national broadcaster, covering landmark events such as the civil rights movement and the assassination of US president John F. Kennedy.

But it was in Bermuda that Mr Tucker’s career began. Born in Warwick, he attended the Berkeley Institute before moving to Toronto to complete his studies.

He became the first black student to graduate from Ryerson’s School of Journalism, then returned home to work first for the Bermuda Recorder, and then The Royal Gazette.

In the late 1950s Mr Tucker was invited to work for the Toronto Telegram, and then moved to the CBC in 1961 as the broadcaster’s first black reporter. He remained with the CBC for 35 years, first in Toronto and then in Montreal.

At yesterday’s ceremony, Mr Tucker’s daughter described him as a man who relished being at the centre of events, while remaining down-to-earth.

According to the CBC website, Rebecca Sevrin said: "He loved being where the action was … [but] he never really spoke about his 'cherry on top of the ice cream' experience at the CBC. He wasn't a braggart. He just kept to himself and kept on moving."

According to the website, Mr Tucker covered some key historical events in the 1960s. He was one of the first reporters to break the news of US president John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 and was in Montreal for John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s bed-in for peace protest in 1969.

“I asked him about that because I thought he'd be excited to talk about it," Ms Sevrin told CBC.

"And he just goes, ’Yeah, they were in bed’.”

Mr Tucker also spent much of his working life as a lecturer at the John Abbot College in Montreal.

Former student Brian Daly, said: “My relationship with Ernest went far beyond that of a student-teacher dynamic. Ernest was also a mentor and an inspiration.

“What an extraordinary career of firsts. The first black student at the Ryerson School of Journalism. The first black journalist at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

“First at the CBC to report the assassination of John F. Kennedy. And a reporter at Toronto’s first black newspaper.

“Not that Ernie boasted about any of those firsts. Nor did he ever share the pain and disappointment that he must have felt when white Canadian news managers refused to hire him because of his dark skin.”

Ms Sevrin agreed that her father downplayed the difficulties he faced as one of the first black men to work in journalism in Canada.

She said her father was hesitant to discuss his hardships with his children, but taught them to seize any opportunities that came their way.

"He wouldn't really say 'I had it so bad – they hated me because I was black’,” Ms Sevrin said.

“He'd always say, ‘look, it's a big world out there, and if you want something, just work hard. Study. Have faith in yourself, and you can get what you want’.”

Directly under his picture on the plaque made to honour him, is a quote from Mr Tucker addressing the subject.

"I never let race get in the way of what I wanted," it reads.

"I just wish more than anything he was here even just for an hour to witness this, because this would be the happiest moment of his life," Ms Sevrin said.

"He's not, and since we know that, my brother, sister and I are going to go and learn how happy he would be, and we'll be that happy ourselves. Because he's our father, and he did everything to make us happy."

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Published December 17, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated December 16, 2020 at 4:05 pm)

Journalism pioneer Ernest Tucker inducted into CBC Hall of Fame

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