Along with the Drifters and Jeanette "Baby" Washington came newsman Ernie Boston.
Mr. Boston was Baltimore's melodic town crier, on black radio and later on television, from the 1960s through the 1980s. His talent and dedication would eventually carry him to the top editor's job of a black-owned newspaper group in Maryland.
Mr. Boston died of congestive heart failure Thursday at his home in Baltimore. He was 59.
"First, Ernie had great pipes, a beautiful announcer's voice," said Jonathan Compton, a disc jockey known in Baltimore radio as Sir Johnny O. "He was a true gentleman, modest. He never let his ego run away with him as he quietly opened new doors as an African-American."
And the times couldn't have been better for Mr. Boston to break in, a friend recalled yesterday.
"Ernie first made his mark during the richest, wildest period in Baltimore radio," said Robert Mathers, an executive with WAMD-AM in Aberdeen.
Mathers referred to Baltimore disc jockeys such as Paul "Fat Daddy" Johnson, Fred "Rockin' Robin" Robinson and Kelson "Chop Chop" Fisher -- and how their personalities and the music they played crackled across the dial.
When he entered the Baltimore radio scene, Mr. Boston's deep, measured presentation of the news stood in sharp contrast to the on-air antics of DJs on other stations like Johnson, whose rapid-fire, hip poetry made him a legend.
Born in the Sandtown section of West Baltimore, Mr. Boston graduated from Baltimore City College in 1957 and then attended the Broadcast Institute of Maryland, where he later was an instructor, and Baltimore Junior College, predecessor of Baltimore City Community College.
Later, he earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland, College Park and a master's degree in speech from American University in Washington.
The Baltimore radio stations he worked at included WCAO-AM, where he was program director, and WEBB-AM, WBGR-AM and WLIF-FM. He also worked for CBS Radio in New York.
During the late 1960s, friends said, Mr. Boston covered the Vietnam War for CBS. Often, they said, he volunteered for dangerous combat missions instead of staying within safer environs like Saigon, then the capital of South Vietnam.
From the 1970s through the 1980s, Mr. Boston was a news announcer and later news director at WBFF-TV.
From their home in Balmoral Towers in Randallstown, "He and I worked with troubled youth," said his wife of 18 years, Selena Boston.
"The courts would call us up and we would have kids stay in our home until their parents picked them up, or they went to foster homes," she said.
Mr. Boston also "loved nature. From the corn he planted to the seeds all over the place. He loved for things to grow, including himself. He could be reading a book, a newspaper and have the television news all going simultaneously," said Mrs. Boston.
Willie Givens, an editor at the Baltimore Afro-American, said Mr. Boston worked at the newspaper for several years into the early 1990s.
"He had a great sense of personal dignity," Mr. Givens said. "I drove him to work and nobody found out about his problems, like his health."
At the time of his death, Mr. Boston was editor of the Times Groups Inc., an African-American-owned business with weekly newspapers in Baltimore, Annapolis, Prince George's County and the Eastern Shore. He held the position for nearly seven years.
"He was always here in the city office, from early in the morning to late in the evening because he loved the news business," said Ginger Williams, associate editor.
Mr. Boston's first marriage to Dorthea Jackson ended in divorce in 1978.
Private services will be held tomorrow.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Boston is survived by a son, Mark Boston; a daughter, Tracie Boston; a brother, Barry Boston; a sister, Sandra Boston; and a grandson. All are of Baltimore.
Pub Date: 3/18/99