Atlanta TV personality, pastor Ron Sailor Sr. dies at 61
Ken Watts | 10/7/2013, 6:30 p.m.
ATLANTA Ron Sailor Sr., legendary Atlanta radio and television personality, former South DeKalb resident and pastor of Christ the King Baptist Church in Dacula, died Oct. 6 of a heart attack on his way to church. He was 61.
As a journalist and media commentator, Sailor was honored with seven Emmy awards for outstanding performance in television as well as being named outstanding commentator in the Southeastern United States three times.
In the 1980s, Sailor became the first African-American to serve as commentator for the evening news at a major Southern television station, WSB-TV, and the first black journalist to anchor an afternoon television program in Atlanta when he hosted “Backtalk” on WXIA.
His breakthrough came during the “Missing and Murdered Children” case in the early 1980s. With Atlanta gripped by the killings of 29 African-American children and young men between 1979 and 1981, Sailor co-hosted on WSB a late-night update on developments in the case that caught on with viewers.
Maynard Eaton, a reporter at WXIA from 1978 to 1989, remembers Sailor as a tough competitor and a trailblazer.
“When you think about it, Ron was one of the first multiplatform journalists,” Eaton said. "He was in the newspaper; he was on the radio and on television; and at one point he was doing them all at the same time. We were competitors, but I always had the utmost respect and admiration for Ron.”
In the early ’90s, Sailor went on to a career in radio as a host for what was WIGO-AM and reappeared on TV a couple of years later as a general assignment reporter for WXIA/Channel 11.
Sailor worked for CBS Radio-WAOK 1380 in 1971 and again in 2002 when WAOK switched to a News Talk broadcast format.
At the WAOK Truthy Awards and Radio Legends Ball, Sailor thanked other radio legends for giving him his radio education.
“I stand on the shoulders of a lot of people like Ben Haley, Gene Michael, Zilla Mays even Jivemaster Ezmond Patterson, Harrison Smoithj and Brother Bob McKee who were gracious enough to pass the torch on to me when I was 18 years old,” Sailor said.
Sailor eventually left TV and radio to focus on his ministry at the former Appalachee Baptist Church, now Christ the King.
A few years later Sailor’s name was thrust back into the public sphere when two of his sons from his first marriage found themselves in legal trouble. His oldest son, Ron Sailor Jr., pleaded guilty to money laundering in 2008 and received a five-year sentence. Four years earlier another son, Antony Sailor, pleaded guilty to the strangulation murder of the niece of Sailor Sr.’s wife and received a life sentence.
Sailor said in a 2008 interview that he spent agonizing moments wondering whether his sons' troubles were the result of something he did or didn’t do as a parent but concluded that they made their own choices.
“What adults do is the result of what adults do,” he said. “Ron’s decisions were Ron’s decisions. Tony destroyed a life and ruined a life - the life he ruined was his.”
Sailor was consecrated to the office of bishop by Bishop Paul S. Morton in 2008.
Sailor is survived by his wife, the Rev. Dr. Marion Sailor, and two more sons and two daughters. His funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday Oct. 12 at Christ the King Church, 258 Rabbit Hill Road, Dacula, GA 30019.