The Detroit Public TV community was saddened to hear of the passing of Karen Hudson Samuel, former News Director of WGPR-TV, Executive Director of WGPR-TV 62 Historical Society, DPTV Community Advisory Panel member, and an important figure in our city’s media history. She will long be remembered as a pioneer in giving Black Detroiters a voice in local media. In 2016, she helped establish the William V. Banks Broadcast Museum, which details the legacy of WGPR-TV 62, the first stationed owned and operated by African Americans in the country. In 2020, she was elected Chairperson of the Detroit Historical Society’s Black Historic Sites Committee.
Her colleagues and those she partnered with around the city also had much to share about her impact. Here are just some of the tributes:
From the Detroit Historical Society and Daphne Hughes, Producer of American Black Journal:
Karen was also a member of Detroit Public TV’s Community Advisory Panel.
DPTV’s Lisa B. Hall, Sr. Manager of Board and Government Relations, shared this reflection:
“From the moment I met Karen, I knew I wanted to work with her and have her in my life somehow. Her “bigger-than-life” personality always made me smile. DPTV was honored to have Karen on our Community Advisory Panel and she made an impact immediately upon joining. She was always so gracious and committed to her passions and she had the ability to draw me deep into her stories. She will be missed.”
Karen was also an instrumental part of putting together the American Black Journal Roadshow at the WGPR Museum, a roadshow that coincided with ABJ’s milestone of being on the air for 50 years. WGPR-TV 62 was the first TV station owned and operated by African Americans in the country.
Here she is as a panelist in the American Black Journal Roadshow—’African Americans: Telling Our Story’ in 2018:
News Release: Karen Hudson Samuels Passes Away
The media community of Detroit and the nation are mourning the loss of Karen Hudson Samuels, a pioneering journalist, TV producer, news manager, technical trainer, and organizer of many of Detroit’s cultural events, organizations, and institutions. Karen passed away suddenly on February 8, 2021.
Karen was a founding member of the WGPR-TV62 Historical Society, an organization of former
employees dedicated to preserving the legacy of the historic WGPR-TV62, the first African American-owned and operated television station in the United States.
Karen became the Historical Society’s Executive Director in the development of the William V. Banks Broadcast Museum and Media Center. Karen guided the museum through its many phases, from the first exhibit of the organization’s historic treasures and memorabilia at the Detroit Historical Museum in 2014 to the full-scale development of the Historical Society’s William V. Banks Broadcast Museum in 2016.
Thanks to her efforts, the museum is now recognized as a Michigan Historical landmark and was honored on February 1, 2021, as a nationally recognized historic site. The building is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Karen’s various media and broadcast engagements include her role as Chair of the Detroit Black
Historic Sites Committee, an affinity organization of the Detroit Historical Museum; an active member of the National Association of Black Journalists; and as the producer of the recent exhibition of the American Negro Baseball League at the Detroit Historical Museum. She was also a contributing writer and reporter for Tell Us Detroit Digital News.
Karen’s professional career began at WGPR-TV in 1976 as an intern and new graduate of Indiana
University. During Karen’s time at WGPR-TV, she grew from intern to writer to producer, TV News Anchor, and eventually News Director. In her role as News Director, she managed and mentored many young people through their initiations into broadcast writing, reporting, technical application, and TV production. Many of her staff moved on to successful careers in broadcasting and entertainment. They include: Daphne Hughes, producer, American Black Journal; James Jackson, news assignment editor, WDIV-TV 4, Henry McConico, news manager at WJBK-TV 2; David Roberts, Vice President at ESPN Network; Terry Owens, former anchor at ABC Baltimore; Susan Fowler, Entertainment Attorney with Spike Lee Productions; Pat Kirk, former anchor at CNN Cable News, and many more who perform in front of and behind the camera. Karen was a friend and mentor to so many individuals who have enjoyed successful careers due to her training and leadership.
Karen moved on from WGPR-TV to return to Indiana University to receive her master’s degree in Instructional Development and Design. She then moved to Washington DC to work for two Federal Government Contracting companies. Later, Karen returned to Detroit to work for Ford Motor Company as a Manager for Education Training and Development. She maintained 20 years of employment at Ford, retiring in 2007.
Following retirement, Karen continued an active social and cultural life with many volunteer activities, including her tireless efforts advocating for the WGPR-TV62 Historical Society, the Detroit Historical Society, and Black Historic Sites Committee.
Karen is survived by her husband, Clifford Samuels Jr.; brother-in-law Christopher Samuels; sister, Dr. Margaret Hudson Collins; brother-in-law, Attorney Steven Collins; sister, Brendon Hudson; nephew, Dr. Carl Collins; and niece, Katherine Collins.
Karen’s comment regarding her crowning achievement of getting WGPR’s TV Studios placed on the National Register of Historic Places was: “We’ve gone from Broadcast Pioneer to Historic Landmark!”
The WGPR – William V. Banks Museum is located at 3140 East Jefferson, Detroit, Michigan 48207.