Joseph E. Madison
Doctor of Laws
Washington University Arts & Sciences alumnus Joe Madison is a groundbreaking radio personality and human and civil rights activist. He has built a legacy of using his voice for those without one.
His radio program, “The Joe Madison Show,” airs nationally weekday mornings on SiriusXM’s Urban View channel 126. During his four-hour program, Mr. Madison, also known as “The Black Eagle,” talks about political and social issues, brings attention to social injustices around the world, and challenges himself and his listeners daily to “do something about it.”
Named one of Talkers magazine’s 100 Most Important Talk Radio Hosts nine times, often in the top 10, Mr. Madison has interviewed world leaders, including President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, among other notable guests.
A native of Dayton, Ohio, Mr. Madison was raised by his grandparents. In the mid-1960s, he attended Wisconsin State, where he was captain of his undefeated freshman football team. As a student leader, he became involved in the civil rights movement. His coach, resenting Mr. Madison’s campus activism, removed him from the team.
Eventually, Mr. Madison received a welcoming call from the athletic director at Washington University, who offered him a spot on the Bears football team. A sociology major, he was an all-conference running back on the football team, a baritone soloist in the university choir and a disc jockey at the campus radio station. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1971, the first in his family to do so.
After becoming active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Mr. Madison, at age 24, was named executive director — the youngest — of the NAACP’s 10,000-member Detroit chapter in 1974.
He was promoted in 1986 by the NAACP’s president, Benjamin Hooks, to serve as the organization’s national political director. Among the highlights of his eight-year tenure, he organized a successful boycott of Dearborn, Michigan, businesses over a racist city law, and he led hundreds of volunteers on a series of successful voter registration marches, including a cross-country “march for dignity” from Los Angeles to Baltimore that also garnered thousands of signatures for an anti-apartheid bill in Congress.
In 1986, he was elected to the NAACP’s Board of Directors, a position he held for 14 years.
In the midst of his civil rights work, he started another career in 1980 as a socially conscious radio talk show personality on Detroit’s WXYZ-AM. He went on to host talk shows in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. The popularity of his WOL-AM show led to syndication on the Radio One Talk Network and eventually to SiriusXM.
A tenacious leader in the cause for social justice, he uses his show as a platform for inspiring action on critical issues. He brought international attention to human rights abuses in southern Sudan from his three trips to the country in the middle of its second civil war. Working with the Swiss-based Christian Solidarity International, he helped free 7,000 Sudanese being held as slaves.
In February 2015, he set a Guinness World Record at 52 hours for the longest on-air broadcast. During the record-breaking show, he raised more than $250,000 for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
In June 2015, Mr. Madison made history again by broadcasting live from Cuba, becoming the first American radio host to do so in more than 50 years.
He has not forgotten the opportunities he received as a Washington University student and continues to give back to his alma mater.
A member of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society, he has generously supported scholarships, athletics and the university’s Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement. For the past two decades, he has interviewed potential students for the admissions office. In 2017, he received Arts & Sciences’ Distinguished Alumni Award.
A board member of the American Red Cross, his other awards include the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Journalism Award in 2000, the Washington Association of Black Journalists Community Service Award in 1997 and the NAACP Image Award in 1996.
Mr. Madison and his wife of 42 years, Sharon, live in Washington, D.C. They have four children and five grandchildren.