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Monica Pearson

Monica Pearson has led a distinguished career in journalism at WSB-TV in Atlanta, Georgia, as the anchor of Channel 2 Action News at five, six and eleven o’clock. Pearson has received over twenty-eight Emmy Awards as well as other awards for her reporting and her “Closeups” segments. She is also a humanitarian who assists in charitable, non-profit, and community causes.

Born on October 20, 1947, in Louisville, Kentucky, Pearson is the daughter of Hattie Wallace Jones Edmondson and the late Maurice Jones. Like her mother, Pearson attended Catholic schools during her formative and high school years. Her mother, who worked her way through school, attended St. Mary’s Academy in New Orleans, Louisiana, a prestigious boarding school for black females. Her mother was also one of the first black women to work at the Louisville Post Office.

Pearson knew at an early age that she would pursue a career in communications. One of her part time jobs in high school included working at the local black owned radio station where she did voice over work and read prayers on the station’s religious programs. She also sang country music as a teenager on a television show called Hayloft Hoedown. Pearson pursued and obtained her B.S. degree in English from the University of Louisville. She also participated in the Summer Program for Minority Groups at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York City. Before joining WSB-TV Channel 2, Pearson worked in public relations for Brown Forman Distiller; as an anchor and reporter for WHAS-TV in Louisville, Kentucky; and as a reporter for the Louisville Times. Pearson began her career as the first African American and the first female to anchor a daily evening newscast in Atlanta at WSB-TV in 1975.

Pearson is a recipient of numerous awards: the Women’s Sports Journalism Award, Citizen Broadcaster of the Year Award, Broadcaster of the Year Award, Women of Achievement Award, and the Southern Regional Emmy Awards. She also won first place for excellence in journalism/documentary from the Atlanta Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for her documentary, Hot Flash: The Truth About Menopause.

Pearson is a mother and resides in Atlanta with her mother and husband.

Accession Number

A2006.030

Sex

Female

Interview Date

2/21/2006

Last Name

Pearson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Schools

Presentation Academy

St. William School

University of Louisville

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Monica

Birth City, State, Country

Louisville

HM ID

KAU01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Kentucky

Favorite Vacation Destination

Destin, Florida

Favorite Quote

It Is What You Do With What You Have That Makes You What You Are.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/20/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Lasagna

Short Description

Television anchor Monica Pearson (1947 - ) began her career as the first African American and the first woman to anchor a daily evening newscast in Atlanta at WSB-TV in 1975. She has won numerous awards for her journalism and documentary work.

Employment

Liberty National Bank and Trust

Louisville Times

WHAS-TV

WSB-TV Atlanta

Favorite Color

Baby Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Monica Pearson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Monica Pearson lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Monica Pearson describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Monica Pearson describes her mother's education and occupations

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Monica Pearson recalls Presentation Academy and Louisville's Smoketown neighborhood

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Monica Pearson describes her father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Monica Pearson recalls tracing her mother's ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Monica Pearson explains why she cannot trace her father's ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Monica Pearson describes her maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Monica Pearson describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Monica Pearson describes her mother's parenting style

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Monica Pearson describes her relationship with her mother

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Monica Pearson describes her father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Monica Pearson describes her mother and father's wedding

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Monica Pearson describes her childhood home and early education

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Monica Pearson describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Monica Pearson describes the neighborhood where her mother grew up

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Monica Pearson recalls her family's Easter and Christmas celebrations

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Monica Pearson describes her cousins' complexions

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Monica Pearson remembers when her family's home was sold against her wishes

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Monica Pearson describes her mother's high school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Monica Pearson recalls her Catholic school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Monica Pearson recalls visiting her mother's high school, St. Mary's Academy

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Monica Pearson lists her elementary and high schools in Louisville, Kentucky

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Monica Pearson remembers her dresses for special occasions

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Monica Pearson remembers her Cousin Lee's cooking and pastimes

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Monica Pearson recalls Presentation Academy and other Louisville high schools

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Monica Pearson describes the Presentation Academy's sports teams

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Monica Pearson explains her religious background and her name's origin

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Monica Pearson describes the jobs she held as a teenager

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Monica Pearson recalls singing on television and working at WLOU Radio

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Monica Pearson recalls winning Miss Congeniality in a beauty contest

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Monica Pearson recalls her decision to attend the University of Louisville

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Monica Pearson describes Dr. Eleanor Young Love

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Monica Pearson reflects upon the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Monica Pearson describes the demographics of her elementary and high schools

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Monica Pearson recalls her coursework at the University of Louisville

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Monica Pearson remembers becoming a television reporter

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Monica Pearson recalls becoming the Atlanta's first African American evening anchorwoman

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Monica Pearson recalls enduring criticism as an African American anchorwoman

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Monica Pearson details her volunteer work

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Monica Pearson describes her experiences of racial discrimination in Atlanta

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Monica Pearson recalls lessons learned from her mother and grandmother

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Monica Pearson reflects upon her relationship with her father

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Monica Pearson reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Monica Pearson shares her advice to aspiring broadcasters

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Monica Pearson describes her husband, John E. Pearson, Sr.

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Monica Pearson reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Monica Pearson reflects upon her spirituality

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

9$5

DATitle
Monica Pearson recalls winning Miss Congeniality in a beauty contest
Monica Pearson remembers becoming a television reporter
Transcript
Then, I would volunteer to do columns for the Louisville Defender, which was the black-owned newspaper, the Louisville Defender, owned by Frank Stanley [Frank L. Stanley, Jr.]. So, I would do that. Now, they also had a pageant every year--the only time I can remember my mother [Hattie Wallace Edmondson] not being supportive of me. I was--the year of the Emancipation Proclamation one hundredth anniversary, so that would have been maybe 1963 (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Nineteen sixty-three [1963], '64 [1964].$$I wanted to be in their beauty contest because it would give you some money--you would win some money. And my mother--I came home and told my mother I'd applied. And my mother said, "I think you're beautiful, but nobody else is. I don't want you being in this." And I said, "I really want to do this." She said, "Well, I'm not going to help you." So, I took one of her old formals, and took the little money I had made, and had her formal cut up into a dress that was more contemporary. I practiced singing and all of this. And there was this wonderful woman, Mrs. Lois Morris [Lois Walker Morris], who went on to become a city councilman, who actually was working with them on this pageant. And my mother went to her and said, "I don't want my daughter in this. Your daughter is, is--can be in it but, you know, they're going to pick a light girl to win. My daughter doesn't have a chance. I don't want you all tearing down her self-esteem." And Mrs. Morris told my mother, "Please let her do it--it's important." It ended up--I won Miss Congeniality, and I was third runner-up, so I didn't do too badly. But she was right--the girl who won it was light and bright, and damn near white (laughter).$$(Laughter) Even in Louisville [Kentucky]?$$Even in Louisville, even in Louisville. But also, you know, that's just the way things were back then. That's just--you don't take it personally, that's just the way it was.$$Well, that still didn't deflate your ego (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Oh, no, no, no, no--$$--or your self-esteem?$$--I was happy to be Miss Congeniality. It had great pictures and it had a huge trophy. At the University of Louisville [Louisville, Kentucky], something really happened that showed me that people can change. And many times, where we are now, it's because of the strength of people who said, this is the way it should be, and I'm not going to be. I ran for Miss U of L [Miss University of Louisville], and I think I won Miss Congeniality in that one, too. But one of my sponsors, the main sponsor, actually was a white fraternity. And I'm--I, I bet you if I found--I cannot remember--I tell you, my mother remembers everything. But a white fraternity sponsored me for that pageant, and I came in as Miss Congeniality. That was a very brave move on their part, a very brave point on their part.$$Did you solicit them or they volunteered (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) No, they--what happened is they--all the girls needed sponsors. And this group, you know, the different fraternities and sororities, and so, they sponsored me.$But in my sophomore year [at the University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky], I decided to get married, so I dropped out in my sophomore year. My mother [Hattie Wallace Edmondson] nearly died. Got married, and took a job working at a bank as a teller. And the teller, the bank, Liberty National Bank [Liberty National Bank and Trust Company, Louisville, Kentucky] was across the street from the Courier-Journal and the Louisville Times newspaper. And after I'd been there, I guess, about a year, I kept wanting to get into the management training program. And they told me that women would never be bank managers. And so, I said, "Well, if I can train these people how to figure out when I'm out of balance, while I'm out of balance, and if I can teach them to do what I'm doing, I surely could be a bank manager." So, I started looking for a job. The newspaper at that time--John Herchenroeder was the ombudsman. It was a new thing where people could call and complain, and Mr. Herchenroeder would then solve their problems.$$Right.$$So, they hired me as a newsroom clerk. Then, in the summer of 1969--well, actually, I need to back up. In 1968, the summer program for minority groups [Summer Program in Broadcast and Print Journalism for Members of Minority Groups] started at Columbia University [New York, New York]. Because what had happened, the riots of 1968, white owned media looked around and said, oh, my God, we don't have any black people in here, and the white reporters we're sending in to cover these riots are being seen as the enemy. We need some black reporters (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Right.$$So, the Ford Foundation [New York, New York] and Columbia University in New York [New York] started the summer program for minority groups in 1968. In 1969, they added print. They started with television, then they added print in '69 [1969], and I went to the first print class. I came back from that program and worked as a reporter at the Louisville Times in the women's department, and then on the city desk. When I had been there a total of five years, I decided I really wanted to do something else. I wanted to get into this new thing called television. So, one of the TV stations actually had an opening, and I went to apply for the job. And I am so happy to say that the guy who talked to me said to me, "You know, we like you, you're very nice, but you're never going to make it in this business." And so, I said to him, "What do I need? What's wrong with me--tell me." And to his benefit and to his credit, he said, "Well, you sound like Mickey Mouse. You dress like you're still in high school. You need to--." And just gave me a laundry list of things to do. So, then took a charm course to learn how to dress--$$Charm--okay.$$--to learn how to dress--$$Okay.$$--how to do makeup. Now, this is at a time when Diane Sawyer was the weather girl at an independent station [WLKY-TV] in Louisville, Kentucky. This was a woman with a degree who was the weather girl. So, you know, back then, they were looking at hair down to here, chest out to here, and not much up here.$$Okay.$$So, he basically--they were more interested in you being pretty than they were in being smart. Diane Sawyer was the weather girl.$$(Laughter) Okay.$$So, I took a charm course to learn to do makeup, learn to do hair, learn to sound a certain way. And part of that charm course involved doing informal modeling for Byck's department store [Byck Brothers and Company, Louisville, Kentucky]. We're back at Byck's.$$Right, okay.$$You would put on a dress at Byck's out at the mall. You'd go into this restaurant. You'd walk through, and tell people what you were wearing. So, I ran into a woman one night who said, "What are you doing? You don't do this." I said, "Well, I'm a former newspaper reporter, now working for Brown-Forman Distillers [Brown-Forman Corporation, Louisville, Kentucky] in public relations, and trying to get a job in television." Her husband was the news director of WHAS-TV in Louisville, Kentucky. She said, "My husband will be here in a moment. I want you to come back and talk to him." I talked to Tom Dorsey, who is now the critic at the, at the newspaper [Courier-Journal] in Louisville--television critic. And he said, "Well, come in, and I want to," you know, "interview you some more." I went in--got the job as a reporter. What I didn't know, when they finally put me on as an anchor, that I was the first black anchor in the city.$$Okay.$$Never knew that--first black woman anchor in the city, never knew that, never knew it. They told me that years later.