On Thursday, July 9, 2020, Joseph Gouvenor “Tex” Gathings III, loving husband and father, died at the age of 92. He passed away quietly in the presence of his wife and loved ones. Joseph, or “Tex” as he was widely known, was born on May 24, 1928 at Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, DC. His parents, Dr. Joseph Gouvenor Gathings II and Elizabeth Parr, after both graduating from Howard University, moved their new family to Houston, Texas, where Dr. Gathings started a medical practice. When Tex was a teenager, the family moved to New York City, where the patriarch completed a residency in dermatology. They then moved back to Houston, where Tex finished high school at Booker T. Washington High School. In yet another move, the family returned to Washington, DC, where they remained for the rest of their lives.
After graduation from high school, Tex attended Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania. He later took a job as a radio announcer with radio station WOOK-AM in Washington, DC, where he worked until he was drafted into the Army. While in the military, he served as a radio/communications technician, and upon completion of duty returned to work with WOOK as a DJ, where he became a well-known entertainment personality. During this period Tex attended Howard University, where he was an active member of the Howard Players—a distinguished and pioneering drama club with roots back to 1907.
When the WOOK broadcast corporation got its TV license in 1962, Tex joined the new enterprise as Production Director. WOOK-TV was the first African American television station in the nation. During his tenure, he served as producer of the popular television program Teenarama Dance Party. It was the first television program of its kind, featuring an African American audience. It became a pathfinder production that led the way for future African American television ventures such as Soul Train and BET. He was also featured before the camera as a daily newscaster.
He remained with WOOK-TV until 1972, when he left to take a teaching position at the, then, Federal City College, which evolved into the present University of the District of Columbia. From 1972 until his retirement in 1991, he served as instructor, professor, Chair of the Department of Mass Media, Visual and Performing Arts, and Assistant Dean of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts. Among his many contributions, he was instrumental in the development of the University’s well-respected Jazz Archives.
Tex’s distinguished career in broadcasting was honored by his peers in 2007 when he was inducted into the Gold Circle of the National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Tex moved to Highland Beach, Maryland over twenty years ago, where he was active in community affairs, including cofounding the Highland/Venice Beach Book Club and serving a term on the Planning and Zoning Commission.
His marriage to his former wife, Gail Elaine Shufford, proudly produced a son, Joseph Gouvenor Gathings, IV. Tex later in life married his long-time friend and partner, Pearline Waldrop. In addition to his wife, Tex is survived by his son and daughter-in law, Yoselin Gathings, first cousins, Jack E. Nelson of Annapolis, William Scott of Pahrump, Nevada, and Walter Scott of Chicago, several second cousins, and many friends. He was predeceased by a sister, Mary Ann, who died in early childhood.
Joe was a master of sociability and affability. He always thoroughly enjoyed the company of family and friends and the partaking of good food and spirits. He was a generous host who went out of his way to make his guests enjoy a good time. His true passions were photography, music, particularly jazz and classical, and cooking (he really excelled with his backyard smoker). He was funny and witty, an avid reader and was continually intellectually curious. Tex will be sorely missed by his family, many friends, former students, and the community of Highland Beach, where he spent his retirement years.
A private burial service will be held at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery, Suitland, Maryland.
Memorial donations may be made to the Duke Ellington Society of Washington in care of Patricia Braxton, Treasurer, 4105 13th Street, NE, Washington, DC 20017.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Joseph G. Gathings III, please visit our floral store.