- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Norman Lumpkin, who helped bring diversity to television news in Alabama, died Tuesday after a career that earned him state and national honors.

A spokesman for Ross-Clayton Funeral Home in Montgomery confirmed that Lumpkin died in Montgomery. His age was not immediately available.

Lumpkin worked for radio stations in Montgomery and Indianapolis, Indiana, before being hired by WSFA-TV in Montgomery in 1969 as the first African-American TV reporter in the capital city.

In his book “Fighting the Devil in Dixie,” the late Montgomery newspaper reporter Wayne Greenhaw recalled meeting Lumpkin at the Greyhound bus station when he arrived to work for WSFA. Lumpkin told him that the Federal Communications Commission was pushing TV stations to have staffs reflective of the cities they served, and “I’m going to be WSFA’s token.”

“But he was nobody’s token,” Greenhaw wrote. He said Lumpkin’s reporting and investigative work proved he was “one of the finest journalists in Alabama.”

Cal Calloway, managing editor at WAGA-TV in Atlanta, worked with Lumpkin in the 1980s in Montgomery. He recalled Lumpkin talking about WSFA assigning him to cover George C. Wallace’s bid for governor in 1970 and other reporters deliberately giving him wrong information about campaign events in an attempt to embarrass him.

But Wallace, who was still a segregationist at that point, would make sure Lumpkin was not left out of campaign events. “That coverage earned Norman the respect of politicians and viewers alike,” Calloway said.

Longtime WSFA anchor Bob Howell called Lumpkin “a real pioneer” in the TV news business in the South. He was the first African-American president of the Alabama AP Broadcasters Association and was inducted into the prestigious Silver Circle of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2007.

Lumpkin left WSFA in the 1990s and worked for another Montgomery TV station before becoming spokesman for the state Department of Transportation for several years before retiring.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

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