Haynes, Trudy 1926–
Trudy Haynes 1926–
Although she spent her career as a local radio and television personality, never ascending to the national media stage, Trudy Haynes’s evolution as a media presence is one of major historical significance. In 1963 she became the first black in the United States to broadcast the weather on television, when she was hired by WXYZ-TV, the ABC affiliate in Detroit. Two years later, she became the first black American to report the news on a television station: KYW-TV, the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia, where she enjoyed a career that lasted 33 years.
Haynes was born Gertrude Daniels in New York City on November 23, 1926. While growing up, she had no thoughts of a career in media; she studied sociology and psychology at Howard University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in 1947. Eventually, she married Kenyon Pinder, a Bahamian businessman, and became stepmother to his three sons.
While Haynes did not purposefully set out to break down barriers, she has been a pioneer her entire adult life. In the early 1950s, she signed on with the DeVore modeling agency, one of the first such outfits to market products to ethnic consumers and have black models under license. “Modeling was just fun,” she recalled in a January 2004 interview with Contemporary Black Biography (CBB). “I wouldn’t say it was my career…. It was just something to do on the side and because I was in New York at the time.” While affiliated with DeVore, she was the first black to appear on poster advertisements for Lucky Strike cigarettes.
Haynes’s initial broadcasting job came in 1956, when she was hired by WCHB, a black-owned radio station in Inkster, Michigan. She learned of the position through a college classmate, whose father had just established the station. “It sounded glamorous, so I said yes,” Haynes told CBB. She was hired as the station’s receptionist, but added, “I guess my voice impressed the director. He asked if I’d like to do a show. Again, sounds very glamorous. So that’s how that started.” Haynes was dubbed the WCHB “women’s editor” and polished her interviewing skills while hosting a daily 90-minute program targeted to women. She accepted her initial television job in 1963, becoming a weather person at WXYZ-TV. Two years later, Haynes moved on to what would be her career-defining job as a news and entertainment reporter and on-air personality at KYW-TV.
Haynes reported that she was influenced by no one, because of the lack of black faces then found on television. Her career evolved out of what she described as “brashness on my part.” As to how she came to be hired by KYW-TV, she noted, “I overheard a conversation that a station was looking for a replacement for one of the ladies that was going to leave. She was blonde and blue-eyed. I called (the contact), and told him I was interested. He told me to come out. Actually, the brash one was him, to have the nerve to even interview a black person. That’s the way it went.”
Regarding obstacles she faced as an on-air media presence when practically all television reporters were white and male, Haynes explained, “Color is so obvious in this country…. Every black feels it. Every black person feels that. And every female that’s breaking into (an all-male) situation probably feels the same way.
Born Gertrude Daniels on November 23, 1926, in New York, NY; married Kenyon Pinder; children: three stepsons. Education: Howard University, BA, sociology and psychology, 1947.
Career: Professional model, early 1950s; WCHB radio, woman’s editor, 1956-63; WXYZ-TV, weatherperson, 1963-65; KYW-TV, news reporter, entertainment reporter, weatherperson, on-air personality, 1965-98; freelance television journalist, 1998-.
Selected memberships: NAACP; National Alliance of Businesspersons; National Business League; Urban League Guild; United Negro College Fund; Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists.
Awards: Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame, 1999.
Addresses: Home—1901 JFK Boulevard, Suite 2921, Philadelphia, PA 19103.
There is a challenge, yes. You want to do well. You want to make people proud of you. You want to be accepted. Those are all things that go through your mind. And in those days, even more so. Communications was more of a man’s (profession) in those days. So I know that even the white women that I’ve bumped into along the way from those early days felt the same way as I did….”
“When I came to Philadelphia, I met a woman who had been in television for about a year or two. She was very self-conscious. And she was white. She was very self-conscious of being the only woman on the reporting staff. When I came in, I think she even felt me as a threat, being a black woman, because I was (taking) some of the attention away from her.… Every woman has felt (pressure) as a pioneer in the business. Even on radio. That was even a challenge. In radio, I worked with all men…. It was a music station, and they were the only disc jockeys. We were all black, because it was a black-owned station. But it was still a challenge.”
Haynes started out in Philadelphia as a news reporter and weatherperson. Her beat was local politics, and she covered City Hall developments and school board meetings. Her interviewees ranged from national figures (Martin Luther King, Jr., Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Jimmy Hoffa) to Philadelphia mayors and Pennsylvania governors. Later on, she began interviewing show business personalities. When asked to cite her favorites, she quipped, “Forget it—I’ve done all of them. Every one of them. Not the new ones, just the older ones.” She instigated a regular news segment which became known as “Trudy’s Grapevine,” in which she reported celebrity gossip in a lighthearted manner. Additionally, she moderated such local public affairs shows as Sunny Side Up and Sunday Magazine. One such program was named The Trudy Haynes Show, the title of which attested to her high-profile as a Philadelphia media personality. She retired from KYW-TV in 1998.
Haynes has been affiliated with a range of professional associations, including the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, NAACP, National Alliance of Businesspersons, National Business League, Urban League Guild, and United Negro College Fund. Through the latter, she established a scholarship fund for worthy Philadelphia-area students in 1990. Nine years later, she was inducted in to the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame. But her most significant accomplishment, she explained, is that she “managed to cross a line in this field. I’ve been very well-accepted, I think generally, by all races…. Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods, and in any of these neighborhoods I go into I’m welcomed…. I can’t remember but two incidents where I was rejected to my face because of color.”
Since her retirement, Haynes reported, “I’m greeted fondly on the street, or anyplace I go. People come over to me to say, you know, they miss me, and wish I still was around, and that they like what I did. And I think that’s important to a person.” But retirement did not mean the end of her career. After retiring from KYW-TV, Haynes has remained active in the Philadelphia media world. Working on a freelance basis, she has appeared on various local television shows, including WPHL-TV’s Philly Connection, PAX-TV’s The Good News, and Comcast Cable’s Let’s Talk About It and Trudy Haynes Discovers Delaware. She established a production company, First Run Film/Video, which generates her show segments. Despite her status as a mainstream media personality, she became an active member of the Philadelphia Community Access Coalition, a lobbying group whose mission is to create public-access cable channels in the Philadelphia area.
American Legacy, Fall 2003, pp. 20-30.
“1999 Hall of Fame Inductees,” Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia, www.geocities.com/broadcastpioneers (February 26, 2004).
Parker, Akweli, “A Plea for Public Access Cable,” Phila-delphia Inquirer, www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/business/7111761.htm (February 26, 2004).
Additional information for this profile was obtained through an interview with Trudy Haynes on January 26, 2004.
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