Joan Murray was the first African-American woman to report the news on a major network show. She worked for CBS in 1965 after writing a letter to CBS-TV asking that she be hired as a news broadcaster.
Murray was born in Ithaca, New York in 1941. Murray also had a twin sister who appeared in both print and television commercials targeting Black consumers. Murray’s professional career began as a court reporter, then she later became a secretary in the Press Department of CBS-TV in New York City, and a secretary to Allen Funt of Candid Camera. She also did writing for an NBC daytime program “Women on the Move.”
On April 1965, Murray became the first African-American newswomen employed by a major television station – WCBS (Channel 2, New York City). She was also the first, and only, black woman to sit on the panel for the “classic” CBS program What’s My Line? Murray was also an accomplished aviator, she was the first African-American woman pilot to participate in the famed Woman’s Air Derby, a grueling and dangerous 9-day air race from Santa Monica, California to Cleveland, Ohio.
Murray left WCBS in 1969, she left to co-found one of the first African-American advertising agencies, the Zebra Agency, which had numerous national advertisers. In 1967, Pepsi Cola, determined to open a market that had been largely overlooked by rival Coca Cola, sponsored “The Joan Murray” radio series, which was produced and nationally syndicated in the U.S. by Hartwest Productions, Inc.