Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer
Broadcast journalist Neville Willoughby at the controls in the RJR studio. - Photo courtesy of RJR Group
'He was one of the best news reporters in Jamaica'
- Lindy Delapenha
'He would just pull you into the whole situation and before you knew it you were doing what you thought you couldn't do.'
- Marie Garth, former broadcaster RJR
'His stewardship was characterised by an easy
competence coupled with humility'
- Cordel Green, Executive Director, Broadcasting Commission
NEVILLE Willoughby, who died yesterday at the University Hospital of the West Indies, has been celebrated as one of Jamaica's premier broadcasters whose career spanned almost five decades.
Willoughby, who was 69 years old, succumbed to injuries he sustained in an auto accident along Molynes Road, St. Andrew, Tuesday evening.
Doctors had listed his condition as serious.
Willoughby, a graduate of Jamaica College and the University of Toronto, worked at the rival Radio Jamaica (RJR) and Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) for several years.
He started his journalism career at RJR in the late 1950s but moved to the JBC in the 1960s. In the early 1970s, Willoughby returned to RJR where, for many years, he hosted The Evening People Show, a folksy call-in programme.
At the time of his death, he was employed to that company as an announcer.
Alongside Allan Magnus, Don Topping, Marie Garth and Henry Stennett, Willoughby was part of a formidable RJR team during the 1970s.
Topping described his long-time friend as a "quiet, mild-mannered person".
"His strongest point was his articulation which was clear, his language was always simple and easy to understand," said Topping. "His knowledge was also broad-based."
Barbara Gloudon, who also works with RJR, first met Willoughby on a school trip to Haiti in the 1950s. She said he was the "consummate professional".
"He was one of those persons you could never say a bad word about," she said. "For a person with so much talent, Neville never blew his own horn."
Willoughby also tried his hand at singing and had a big hit song in the catchy Yuletide number, 'Christmas JA'.
Shortly after moving back to RJR, Willoughby snared an exclusive interview with rising star Bob Marley of The Wailers in 1973. The group was in turmoil at the time, with founding members Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingstone on the verge of leaving for solo careers.
Willoughby travelled to the Rasta commune of Bull Bay, St. Andrew where he met Marley and members of his band.
"He (Marley) was very relaxed and willing to talk about anything," Willoughby said in a 1998 interview. "I knew he was special from I heard 'Thank You Lord'."
The interview was later released in album form and remained a popular seller when reissued in compact disc by RAS Records, a Washington DC-based independent label.
Neville Willoughby is survived by two daughters.
Neville Willoughby and daughter Justine. - FILE
Neville Newton Montrose Willoughby, O.D.
Born: St. Andrew, Jamaica, May 5, 1937.
Son of T. Newton Willoughby, attorney-at-law (deceased) and Zena Willoughby, legal secretary.
Educated: Suthermere Preparatory School; Jamaica College; Toronto University.
Awards: Recipient of The Prime Minister's Medal 1983, Musgrave Medal (Bronze) 1987, Officer of the Order of Distinction 1989.
Career: Announcer, RJR 1960-63, Interviewer, BBC Caribbean Service, London 1962-64; JBC Radio and Television announcer 1964-69.
Freelance announcer with RJR since 1969.
Host of RJR's 'Evening People Show' from 1985-2001 and host of the Colgate Cavity Fighters Club since 1974.
Organisations: Member of The Performing Rights Society.
Publications: Jamaica Boy Novel
Staff members at RJR's Lyndhurst Road offices mourn the death of radio broadcaster Neville Willoughby yesterday. Tazhna Williams (left) comforts Derrick Wilks. Orville Taylor, with tears streaming down his face, leans against the wall. - Junior Dowie/Staff Photographer