Journalism Icon Tamron Hall is inspiring, but who inspired her to go into TV?

OPINION: A legendary Dallas news anchor showed a young Tamron Hall what was possible. Now, Hall continues that legacy for a new generation.

Tamron Hall attends Angel Ball 2023 hosted by Gabrielle's Angel Foundation at Cipriani Wall Street on October 23, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Gabrielle's Angel Foundation )

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Tamron Hall, who received theGrio Award for Journalism Icon, recalled in her acceptance speech the woman who first made her think she could go into TV. “When I saw Iola Johnson,” Hall said, “the first Black woman to report and anchor the news in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, my father looked at me and said, ‘Get your grades up and that can be you.’ My parents signaled very clearly Iola was the first but she did not have to be the last.”

In 1975, when Hall was in grade school, Iola Johnson began a 10-year stretch of co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts for WFAA in Dallas. The station made ads starring her that said, “You can count on Iola.” She was both the first Black person and the first woman to anchor the news in the Dallas area. With her in front of the camera, WFAA was No. 1 in the ratings. She was beloved and respected — she was the best-paid anchor in the area and Dallas Magazine named her the Most Popular Woman in Dallas.

Young Tamron Hall looked up to Johnson and believed she could be a TV news anchor because of Johnson. Now Hall is that sort of icon for young people who dream of getting into TV — and she’s had a dream career.

Hall was a longtime MSNBC star. I was a guest on her show, “NewsNation With Tamron Hall,” many times and when I was a host at MSNBC, my show, “The Cycle,” came on after hers for a year or so. Through all of that, I got to know her well. I got to see the gravitas she brought to broadcasting. I saw her going through her scripts and how meticulous she was. I saw how she addressed the camera, giving you an air of seriousness that was meant to convey professionalism and self-respect but also, sometimes, giving you a little personality to let you see that she’s a fun, cool person. The impact was people felt like they could trust her, but they also wanted to be friends with her.

TheGrio Awards

Truth be told, everyone wanted to be friends with her. I’ll never forget the time she pulled me into her office and played a theme song for her show that Prince had just written for her. He was a fan, and they ended up becoming real friends.

Hall became a host on “The Today Show,” one of the biggest gigs in TV, and then started her own daytime talk show, “The Tamron Hall Show,” and built that into a huge success. She has won two Daytime Emmy Awards for it.

At the end of her speech at theGrio Awards, Hall said, “Thank you to all those who carry the title of first and your fight to make sure you are not the last.” It spoke to the continuum of Hall’s career. Johnson inspired Hall, who has inspired countless others. I wasn’t inspired by Hall as a young person — my Iola Johson was Max Robinson, who hosted the ABC Network News in the ’70s — but I was definitely inspired by Hall when we were colleagues at MSNBC. Working alongside her, I saw what it took to be an extraordinary broadcaster. Tamron Hall is truly a Journalism Icon.

Watch TheGrio Awards 2023 on Feb. 9 starting at 8 p.m. ET. Download theGrio app now to watch on demand or check your local cable listings for TheGrio.


Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of Masters of the Game on theGrioTV. He is also the host and creator of the docuseries podcast “Being Black: The ’80s” and the animated show “Star Stories with Toure” which you can find at He is also the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is the author of eight books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U and the ebook The Ivy League Counterfeiter.

Never miss a beat: Get our daily stories straight to your inbox with theGrio’s newsletter.