Gil Noble, Longtime Like It Is Host, Dies at 80

Gil Noble’s career at WABC/Channel 7 spanned more than four decades. He started as a reporter and weekend anchor in 1967, but it was his signature show, Like It Is, an African American weekly public affairs show that made him a legend. 

The station says Noble died peacefully today at age 80 following a long illness.

“Gil Noble’s life and work had a profound effect on our community and culture,” WABC president and general manager Dave Davis said in a statement. “His contributions are a part of history and will be remembered for years to come. Today, our hearts are with Gil’s family – his wife, Jean and their five children – and we thank them for so lovingly [for] sharing him with the world all these years.”

On Like It Is, Noble interviewed top African-Americans dignitaries and luminaries including Arthur Ashe, Muhammed Ali, Nelson Mandela, and even Malcolm X. There were the entertainment heavyweights, such as Harry Belafonte, Bill Cosby, and Lena Horne.

Veteran news programmer Al Primo is the man who put Eyewitness News on the map in 1968, the same year Noble’s Like It Is launched.

“It’s hard to say this, but most of the minority employees at all three of the stations were kind of slotted on the weekends,” Primo tells FishbowlNY. “What I did was give [Gil] a more prominent position on Eyewitness News, making him a featured reporter.”

By January 1968, five months after joining Channel 7, Noble was installed as weekend anchor. Later that year, Noble’s trailblazing Like It Is began its record-setting march, first with Melba Tolliver for a brief time as co-host. His remarkable run ended in July after suffering a devastating stroke.

The show was a beacon for black people during the racial unrest of the 1960s. From its thousands of hours, Like It Is created the largest body of programs and documentaries about African-Americans in the country. And its face was that of Gil Noble.  

“I always found him to be a perfect gentleman. I always found him to be very well-educated, very well-mannered,” Primo says. “[Noble was] just a great pleasure to have on staff.

It was Primo’s decision as news director to take the necessary steps to make Like It Is as successful as it can be, increasing the show’s personnel.  

“In its very early stages, it was kind of just him,” Primo recalls. “He had no real staff or anything.”

The Harlem native, Noble was from a very upper class family, as Primo recalls, who was a socialite-type of person.

Noble was the recipient of more than 650 community awards and numerous industry accolades, including seven Emmys. He was also the recipient of five honorary doctorates.