Longtime civil rights advocate, talk show host Jack Gravely dies suddenly

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RICHMOND, Va - "The Jack Gravely Show" went live on Rejoice 990AM Tuesday without the program’s namesake behind the mic.  Longtime civil rights advocate and talk show host Jack Gravely passed away at VCU Medical Center Monday after suffering a heart attack.  Gravely had been at the hospital for a procedure.

Gravely’s death came as a shock to many who knew him.  Friends said they knew had suffered some health setbacks, but they were caught off guard by his sudden passing.

Tuesday’s program served as two-hour memorial to a man that touched many lives in Richmond and Virginia as a whole, according to Jim Jacobs, owner of Rejoice 990AM and a longtime friend.

"He knew the mayor; he knew Tim Kaine; he knew a lot of people.  But the people he really seemed to connect with were regular people,” Jacobs said following the radio show.  "We all want to do something important.  Jack did.”

Gravely served two separate stints as executive director of the Virginia NAACP. He originally held the position for nearly 10 years, November 1976 to January 1985. Then, from April 2015 to June 2016 with an interim tag.

During his June resignation, Gravely said he came to the decision because he thought the organization is moving too slowly in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and protests over police violence across the country.

Virginia Congressman Bobby Scott said he met Gravely in the 1970’s through their work with the NAACP.  Scott said he will remember Gravely as a zealous advocate for civil rights.

"He just works hard; doesn't mind ruffling feathers.  If his friends are wrong he'll call them on it. You just need that kind of advocacy,” Scott said during an interview with CBS 6 Tuesday.

Longtime Richmond businessman Neverette Eggleston Jr. said Gravely was a regular face at his new Northside restaurant Sugar’s Crab Shack.  Eggleston said for many years Gravely was the man to turn to if you needed to know about the issues facing Richmond.

"He was very knowledgeable about the entire community.  Black and white relationships,” Eggleston said.  "I really didn't depend on what he said, but I always looked to talk to him. It was very educational.”

Friends and colleagues said that Gravely cherished the art of conversation, and as a radio host, Gravely was not afraid to back down from an argument.

"For him, it wasn't about beating the other person down, or having a victory.  It was that little tiny bit of understanding that you could get in all the mess,” said Billy Flynn, the producer for “The Jack Gravely Show.”

Leaders at Rejoice 990AM said they will continue producing the show with a new host; however, they said they can never truly replace the man behind the mic who launched the show.