Tyrese, Honoree Andrew Young

*On Friday, February 25, 2011, former Atlanta Mayor and former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young became the first recipient since 2003 to receive The Trustees Award for lifetime achievement at The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Trustee’s Award (NATAS) dinner at The Sheraton Hotel and Towers in New York City.  NATAS is a non-profit association dedicated to the advancement of television.

The award is the highest honor bestowed by NATAS on an individual, given in recognition of “unusual or enduring achievements or contributions to the arts and sciences of television.”

Broadcast pioneer Tom Brokaw presented the award to his “brother and friend.”  Brokaw, who was a reporter at WSB-TV in Atlanta before joining NBC News, met Ambassador Young while covering the Civil Rights movement and has interviewed him many times over the years — most recently for a profile in his book about the 1960s, “Boom!

In his moving acceptance speech a humble Ambassador Young remarked, “If all of the things that were said tonight are true, then I’m a pretty good guy, but I wouldn’t be anything if it was not for the love and support of all of you who are my family.  The sacrifices that are made the most are from families.  Thank you.”

Hank & Billye Aaron and Honoree Andrew & Carolyn Young

During the star-studded program Dr. Maya Angelou and Sidney Poitier appeared on tape narrating highlights from the honoree’s journey.  Musical tributes were performed by Tyrese, Farris Christine Watkins, Brokedown Cadillac, and the Jazzvox Ensemble: Cilla Owens, The Monk for President Trio & Sylvester Scott.

NATAS presented the award to Ambassador Young for being one of the first to integrate television in the Peabody award-winning CBS series “Look Up and Live,” where Young served as a host from 1957 to 1960 at a time when Blacks were hardly seen on television.  In 1960, “Look Up and Live” won for CBS and the National Council of Churches the Prestigious Peabody Award.

NATAS also recognized his award-winning quarterly series “Andrew Young Presents,” where positive stories on Africa, the message of Mahatma Ghandhi, the Civil Rights Movement and gun control have been brought to life.  The acclaimed specials are in national syndication.

Since the award was established in 1957, there have been 18 years in which no Trustees Award was presented.  Ambassador Young is the first recipient of the Trustees Award since 2005.  “NATAS is honored to present the Trustees Award to someone who has done so much good in the world we live in,” stated Darryl Cohen, NATAS chairman of the board.

There is no better confirmation of the importance of the Trustees Award than the list of previous winners, which includes such giants of television as Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, William S. Paley, Roone Arledge, Ted Turner, Ed Sullivan, Bob Hope, Dick Parsons, Gerald Levin and Bob Iger.  The recipient of the very first Trustees Award, in 1957, was Jack Benny.

In addition to a lovely gift bag containing Hydroxatone products, guests also received a full color program with a new oil painting of Ambassador Young by portrait artist Damon Carter of Atlanta on the cover.

In addition to thanking the never-tiring efforts of everyone who contributed to the success of the evening, NATAS also extends a very special thanks to its sponsors Aaron’s, Hydroxatone, Ted Turner and The Coca-Cola Company. 

(Photos by Marc Bryan-Brown)

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.