Merri Dee, Veteran Journalist and Survivor, Spreads the Joy

Thu., Apr. 28, 2011 11:13 AM EDT
by Zondra Hughes

Merri Dee (right) with The B.O.S.S. Network founder Cameka D. Smith

“I was kidnapped, shot twice in the head with a .38 at very close range, pronounced dead twice, and brought back,” legendary media personality and philanthropist Merri Dee told a stunned crowed during The B.O.S.S. Network’s annual salute to Influencers, held at Room 43 in Chicago’s historic Bronzeville area. “I’ve been here a long time, and I play not with God’s work. So when we are able to get up in the morning, let us all just say thank you for tonight.”

It was a crime that shocked the nation.

On July 17, 1971, 33-year-old Merri Dee was hosting her show, “The Merri Dee Show,” on WSNS Channel 44, with her guest, psychic Alan Sandler.

After the broadcast, Samuel Drew, 26, kidnapped the two, robbed them, drove them deep into a wooded area, and then shot them both in the back of the head. Sandler died, Dee managed to crawl to the highway and was rescued.

Doctors did not believe that she would recover, and Dee’s friend, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, gave her last rites.

After the incident, Dee worked closely with government officials and community activists to draft the country’s first Victims’ Bill of Rights.

In 1972, Dee was hired as the anchor for Chicago’s WGN-TV. “I am retired from WGN after 38 years, and I am celebrating my 43rd year in broadcasting,” Dee said, adding that she’s also celebrating her 75th birthday.

“And I want you to know with all that has happened to me in my life, when I say I’m grateful to wake up in the morning, oh, I am pleased,” she said.

Dee disclosed that she still suffers headaches, but she encouraged the standing-room only crowd to accept praise when its due and to face the world head-on.

Today, Dee is the state president of AARP in Illinois, and she was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame along with the late and legendary “60 Minutes” host Ed Bradley, The Washington Post‘s Eugene Robinson, Ray Taliaferro, Walt Swanston, and JC Hayward.

Dee told the sea of women that the key to her success and vigor is her joy. ”I say all the time, don’t go into a party looking for what’s happening … you have to be the party. I learned a long time ago about being the joy and bringing the joy. Because when I go to a party, I bring the joy, and when I leave it walks out with me,” she said.

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