Sharon K. McGhee, WVON radio personality and playwright, dies at 55
Joan Giangrasse Kates
(September 17, 2012) As a young girl, Sharon K. McGhee would speak
before her church's congregation in St. Louis, a Sunday ritual aimed at
building confidence in children that was the seed of a career as a
Chicago radio personality known by thousands of listeners for her
"Sharon never had a problem speaking up," recalled her younger brother,
Ivan McGhee, with a laugh. "She'd get up in front of all those people
and just keep talking and talking. Nobody knew if she would stop."
Ms. McGhee parlayed her gift for gab into a radio gig in St. Louis, then
a reporting job at WVON radio that led to her becoming a well-known
on-air personality and a news director.
She died at 55 on Tuesday, Sept. 11, at her brother's Columbia, Mo.,
home after a long battle with ovarian cancer, relatives said.
"There was just something so captivating about her personality — on and
off the air," said Melody Spann Cooper, president of WVON, who hired Ms.
McGhee as a reporter in 1997. "As a journalist, she had strong opinions,
and that's exactly how her fan base liked it. As a friend and colleague,
she was just plain fun. There was never a dull moment with Sharon."
Ms. McGhee was also a playwright who penned "The PocketBook Monologues,"
based on African-American women's personal stories about their sexuality
and sexual responsibility.
The play was critically acclaimed and received kudos from Dr. Joycelyn
Elders, the former U.S. surgeon general, relatives said. It was inspired
by "The Vagina Monologues," but includes in its title an expression for
female private parts used by some older African-American women. Its
success prompted Ms. McGhee to briefly leave the station in 2006 to
pursue a full-time writing career.
"She knew she'd have to leave her job with the station to devote more
time to her writing, but still she was torn," Spann Cooper said. "So we
sat down one day, weighing the pros and the cons."
Ms. McGhee returned to WVON in 2008 after a two-year hiatus. In 2009,
her play was performed at the DuSable Museum of African American History
by Chicago broadcasters Marion Brooks, Cheryl Burton, Micah Materre,
Robin Robinson and Dorothy Tucker.
The play was also incorporated into an episode of "Real Housewives of
Atlanta," which was filmed at the same time Ms. McGhee was receiving
chemotherapy treatments for ovarian cancer.
She resigned as news director in 2010 because of her failing health but
continued to write, including another play called "The Cancer
As a child in St. Louis, Ms. McGhee showed a spirited nature and
extraordinary determination, her brother said.
After graduating from high school, Ms. McGhee joined the Army and served
in Germany, where she inspected missiles. After several years, she
returned to St. Louis and eventually landed a job at KATZ radio, where
she hosted a morning show until the station's format changed in 1997.
"She believed in going after what you want," Spann Cooper said. "Too
often people play it safe, but not Sharon. Once her mind was made up,
she was full speed ahead."
Besides her younger brother Ivan, Ms. McGhee is survived by her father,
J.W., and two other brothers, Don and Joseph.
Visitation will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the William C. Harris
Chapel in St. Louis, followed by a memorial service there at noon.
A memorial hosted by WVON in Chicago is pending.
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