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‘Cool Gent’ Herb Kent, Radio’s Longest-Running DJ, Dies at 88

By Joe Vince,

Herb Kent, a Chicago institution and a local radio personality for more than 70 years, died Saturday at the age of 88, according to V103 (WVAZ-FM, 102.7), Kent’s on-air home for the past 27 years.

“No words can express our great sense of loss,” Mat Scarano, region president for iHeartMedia Chicago, the station’s parent company, said in a statement. “Herb was an iconic talent, who for nearly 70 years entertained millions of listeners in Chicagoland and around the world. His passion for radio and work ethic was second-to-none as Herb worked to the very end, by hosting what unexpectedly was his final V103 broadcast on Saturday morning.”

Kent’s family did not have an immediate comment, and memorial arrangements were still pending, according to the station.

Born Oct. 5, 1928, in Chicago, Kent — who also was known as “The Cool Gent,” “King of the Dusties” and the “Mayor of Bronzeville” — began his radio career at WBEZ-FM in 1944 at the age of 16, according to the Chicago Tribune. Over his 72-year career, he worked for 11 stations around the area, including WMAQ-AM and WVON-AM, the report stated.

“Herb was our radio superhero,” Derrick Brown, iHeartMedia Chicago’s urban programming director, said in a statement. “While I’m incredibly sad, I hold so much joy remembering the fun times we’ve had with him and the smiles he brought to our faces. Herb will hold an eternal place in our hearts.”

Kent grew up in the Ida B. Wells housing project in Bronzeville and went to Hyde Park High School. He also has a street named after him, Herb Kent Drive, on the South Side, and taught at Chicago State University.

As a DJ, Kent is credited with putting acts such as Smokey Robinson, Minnie Riperton, The Temptations and Curtis Mayfield on the musical map, and he also helped “Soul Train” host Don Cornelius launch his broadcasting career, the Tribune reports. Kent — named the longest running DJ in radio history by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2009 — was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame in August, the report added.

“I’m proud and humbled by the many accolades over the years,” Kent said in a 2015 interview with the “Soul Train” website. “Each time I drive by Hyde Park high school and see the street (previously Stony Island) named in my honor and the street in Bronzeville, I know that all my ups and downs during my life have not been in vain. … I’m humbled.”

Fans and admirers of Kent expressed their sadness and sympathy Sunday at hearing about the radio legend’s passing.

One of thee best to ever do it, the longest. RIP, the legendary Herb Kent.

A photo posted by Onederfulprayer/Angela Martin (@onederfulprayer) on

“Herb Kent will forever be remembered for his incredible talent, infectious passion for music, and unique ability to entertain and uplift,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “Herb was among the greatest radio personalities in the history of the medium, and he was always eager to mentor the next generation. His legendary career spanned decades, throughout which he consistently used his voice to transcend boundaries and strengthen communities. Herb Kent gave so much and meant so much to the people of Chicago. Amy and I send our deepest condolences to his family, friends, colleagues, and legions of loyal listeners.”

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