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John Walsh and Son

NAB Show 2024: Award Time for Donnie Simpson, Jennifer Hudson, and ‘America’s Most Wanted’

When one thinks about the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show, you can’t help but picture convention halls overflowing with the latest in audio and video technology. But tech without people is nothing. NAB knows this and devotes significant portions of its annual get-togethers to honor the contributions made by individuals.

In previous years honors have gone to such stars as Jerry Lewis, Chuck Lorre, and Alan Alda. At this year’s NAB Show, which ran from April 13-17 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, award winners included Donnie Simpson, Jennifer Hudson, and the television show America’s Most Wanted.

Hall of Fame

Donnie Simpson, inducted into the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame, got an early start in the business during the late 1960s. His mother owned Simpson’s Record Shop in Detroit. One day, radio station WJLB broadcasted live from the shop. They asked Donnie, only 15 years old, to read some commercials for them. He decided right then that he wanted to be on the radio.

Within a few weeks, “the little kid with the big voice” became a teen reporter for WJLB and soon was given his own show where he continued to work for eight years. He moved on to a radio station in Washington, D.C., became a program director, then moved to television, and finally to BET. There he became one of the nation’s first VJs. According to information provided by the NAB Show, Bob Johnson, founder of BET, said, “This guy carried us on his shoulders. 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.”

Donnie Simpson commenting on his induction into the NAB Hall of Fame
Donnie Simpson commenting on his induction into the NAB Hall of Fame (photo by author)

Simpson continued in radio, but found time to appear in movies and in TV shows such as Martin and The Jamie Foxx Show, and spent time on various charitable projects, such as raising $220,000 for victims of Hurricane Katrina. He is the only non-musician to be inducted into the R&B Music Hall of Fame.

Television Chairman’s Award

The NAB TV Chairman’s Award goes to an individual for groundbreaking work in one or more specific art disciplines in television. Previous winners include Kelsey Grammar, Sterling K. Brown, Kristen Bell, and Mario Lopez.

Jennifer Hudson receiving Chairman's Award from NAB President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt
Jennifer Hudson receiving Chairman’s Award from NAB President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt (photo by author)

Jennifer Hudson received the 2024 award, for her nationally syndicated talk show, The Jennifer Hudson Show. Hudson’s career, like Donnie Simpson’s, began in childhood when she began singing with her church choir. Love of music expanded into acting.

Her career blossomed and Hudson became the youngest female EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) award winner in history.

Hall of Fame for Television

It’s unlikely that there are many people in this country who have not seen at least one episode of America’s Most Wanted. Bringing the show into the Television Hall of Fame, NAB President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt explained, “For over three decades, America’s Most Wanted has not only captivated audiences but has also played an instrumental role in aiding law enforcement, fostering safer communities and supporting victims and their families. We are grateful for the efforts of the Walsh family, whose dedication and tireless commitment have shaped this iconic program.”

In accepting the award, John Walsh, now assisted by his son Callahan Walsh, recalled how he originally resisted the idea of the show for six months. When he did agree to the show, the result of the first broadcast was capturing a rapist/murderer three days after the show aired.

John Walsh and son Callahan Walsh accepting NAB Hall of Fame award
John Walsh and son Callahan Walsh accepting NAB Hall of Fame award (photo by author)

Callahan reminisced about how he was a little kid when the show began, and how he grew up on the set. Callahan also works with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children as a child advocate and uses his platform to promote child safety programs.

Since America’s Most Wanted began in 1988, Walsh and his helpers have aided police in capturing 1,195 fugitives and bringing 50 missing children home to their families.

For more information about the National Association of Broadcasters and future NAB Shows, visit their website.

About Leo Sopicki

Writer, photographer, graphic artist and technologist. I focus my creative efforts on celebrating the American virtues of self-reliance, individual initiative, volunteerism, tolerance and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.

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