Simpson, Donnie

Simpson, Donnie

Radio Broadcaster, Television Host at Donnie Simpson Productions

DONNIE SIMPSON has been called a trailblazer and a true media legend. His love for music and radio started as a young kid growing up in Detroit where his mother owned Simpson’s Record Shop, a bustling Motor City Mom & Pop, started in 1966. He decided to become a disc jockey after WJLB, a popular Detroit radio station, broadcast live one day from the shop. Simpson was asked to read live commercial spots that day, by legendary disc jockey Al Perkins, who was greatly impressed by the little 15-year-old with the big voice.

Within weeks, Simpson became a teen reporter for WJLB, and soon thereafter was given his own radio show. He was only 15. After eight years on Detroit airwaves, Simpson headed to WKYS-FM in Washington D.C. There he became the morning show host and program director. He led the station to such unprecedented ratings success, that Billboard magazine selected him as the country's #1 Program Director of The Year, and Air Personality of The Year in 1983. The station was owned by NBC and in their illustrious history of broadcasting, WKYS became their first ever #1 radio station. In 1993 he took his talents to WPGC-FM in D.C., but not before embarking on a television career.

In the early 1980’s, Simpson was the backup sports anchor for legendary sportscaster George Michael on WRC-TV, the NBC station in D.C. He later paved his way into television history when he joined America’s first Black television network, BET, as host of the ultra-popular Video Soul. Considered one of the nation’s first video jockeys, Simpson stayed at BET for 14 years, racking up hundreds of memorable live interviews with many of the greatest recording artists of the era. “This guy carried us on his shoulders,” Bob Johnson, founder of BET, once told a reporter. “You cannot write the history of BET without putting Donnie Simpson in the forefront as the major contributor to the creative and economic success of the company.” He was Black Television’s first star.

Moving from television to the silver screen, Simpson appeared in such classic films as Krush Groove and The Five Heartbeats. He also appeared on the popular sitcoms, Martin and The Jamie Foxx Show.

An active community volunteer, Donnie has served as Honorary Chairman of the National Black Family Reunion and has assisted in fundraising efforts for AIDS research and the United Negro College Fund. Donnie and his wife have established The Donnie & Pam Simpson Scholarship Fund, to help minority college hopefuls in need of assistance in getting the opportunity they deserve. Always committed, in 2005 Donnie stayed on the air for 16 hours and raised over $220,000 for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

In January 2010, after 30 years as DC's morning coffee, Donnie left radio. He took a 5½ years hiatus from the airwaves, but on August 17, 2015, he returned to host the afternoon drive at Majic 102.3, a Radio One station in Washington, D.C. The excitement from Simpson’s return was so astonishing, it was the #1 trending story on Facebook and Twitter during his first few days on air.

On October 4, 2015, Donnie was inducted into the R&B Music Hall of Fame. He was the only non-musician to be inducted. Donnie said, "This is so special to me because I'm not cool enough to be in a group of musicians, but it says that what I did impacted them significantly, so they let me in the band for one day.”

In 2020 he was inducted into The Radio Hall of Fame and in 2024 The National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Always humble, Donnie said “Being in any Hall of Fame never crossed my mind. I was just doing what I do. But I’m thrilled and forever grateful that people felt that way about me. I’m so blessed.”

While adored by millions, perhaps Simpson’s biggest fan is President Barack Obama. On the presidential campaign trail in 2008, Mr. Obama stopped to record and send a congratulatory video message to Simpson, citing the media giant for his great tenure in radio.

Donnie Simpson’s consistent #1 ratings success over a 55-year career and his Love of people have earned him “Icon” status among his peers, The White House, and his millions of fans worldwide.

Broadcasting Hall of Fame
Monday, April 15 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM PT