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Arts & Culture

Legendary San Diego broadcaster, credited with breaking barriers, honored in Lemon Grove

The City of Lemon Grove honored a pioneer of broadcasting today with a tree planting ceremony. KPBS reporter Kitty Alvarado tells us William “Tayari” Howard was also honored for decades of community service.

City officials, community leaders, family and friends gathered in Lemon Grove on Wednesday to honor broadcast pioneer William "Tayari" Howard, planting a tree and laying a brick inscribed with his accomplishments in the city hall’s promenade.

Shane Harris, the president of the People’s Association of Justice Advocates, put together the ceremony to honor his mentor in broadcasting after learning Howard had been diagnosed with brain cancer.

"As much time, energy and commitment that this man gave to our region, it is the least we can do to make sure that he gets his flowers while he’s still here with us," Harris said.

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During Howard's 50 years as a radio personality in San Diego, his smooth voice reached far beyond the county. He played a pivotal role in getting Black music on the airwaves, but he had to broadcast from Tijuana to get his own voice heard and Black music played.

"It’s always been a mission of 'never give up,'" Howard said. "When I came to San Diego in 1970, I couldn’t get a job outside the military, especially as a broadcaster. But I knew I wanted to follow in my mother and father’s footsteps as legendary pioneer broadcasters, so I didn’t give up."

Howard not only reflected on that time but also had a message for people still fighting for opportunities.

"I think what happened was over years of broadcasting at eight different radio stations, one TV station here in San Diego, they got the message I didn’t give up, why should they give up, and why should we ever stop?" he said.

One of those eight stations was KPBS.

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One of Howard’s daughters, Mercedes Howard, is a third-generation broadcaster who also started her career in radio in San Diego. She now works for an NPR station in Colorado.

"We are so blessed to have you all today to honor his legacy in this community and what he’s done for radio," she told the group gathered for the ceremony. "I know I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for that guy over there doing 'Lovers for Friends' and sneaking into his room while trying to watch him do his show, so we thank you and we love you as a family and we can’t thank you guys enough." 

But most remarked not only on Howard’s celebrity but his community service, which earned him two presidential awards from President Barack Obama. Howard raised nearly $2 million for nonprofits and mentored dozens of youth.

And he says there’s more to come.

"Never give up, I’m not done yet," Howard said. "As long as God allows me to stay on the earth and give back to the community, that’s what I’m going to be doing."

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