Denise Jordan Walker was an on-air personality on numerous Chicago radio stations, including WNUA-FM during its early founding as a “smooth jazz” station in the late 1980s.
“He had an enthusiastic personality, not only on the air where he shined, but also on the radio station, where he was such a positive person and a joy to be around,” said WNUA general John Gehron. “I think people at the station noticed that, and certainly the listeners were drawn to him because of his on-air tone of voice and the way he connected with them.”
Jordan Walker later became a south suburban-based publicist who represented a variety of clients, including the late actor Bernie Mac.
Jordan Walker, 61, died Oct. 6 at a nursing home from pulmonary hypertension triggered by an autoimmune disease, his daughter, Jenna Walker, said. She was a longtime resident of Country Club Hills.
Born in Chicago, Jordan Walker grew up on the South Side and graduated from Southern Luther High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College Chicago.
Jordan Walker has worked in various on-air and off-air capacities throughout his early career at WGCI-FM, WVON, WLNR, WJPC, and Shadow Traffic Network. In 1988, he was hired as an on-air personality at WNUA, playing live jazz records at noon. The station had changed its format to smooth jazz a year earlier.
Jordan Walker then moved to WNUA in the afternoons.
“Doing the afternoons is where you want some energy, and he was a perfect fit for that time slot,” said Rick O’Dell, who worked afternoons at WNUA when Jordan Walker was the afternoon host. “He had boundless energy and was a truly gifted communicator. WNUA really knew how to engage with her audience, and that was not just on air, but in person as well. We did a lot of public appearances in that time and Denise was always there; At all these public appearances people were flocking to him as if he was the highest profile person on the station.
Gehron said Jordan Walker “fit in very nicely with what we were trying to do with the music and the atmosphere of the radio station.”
Jordan Walker, for his part, told the Tribune in a 1991 interview that he tried to “treat the microphone as if I were talking to a friend.”
“Listeners think I know them personally and that I’m their friend. I actually have a few friends that I made from people who called our request line. I love people, and I think that will come across in the broadcast,” he told the Tribune.
Jordan Walker left WNUA in December 1994 and resurfaced on Chicago’s WVAZ-FM in the afternoons the following month. Later that year, it switched to noon hours.
“It’s her standout voice,” said Maxx Myrick, who was WVAZ’s operations manager and program director from 1993 to 2000. “It was great. “He had a great voice, was easy to work with, and was very talented.”
Jordan Walker moved to work part-time at “V-103” on weekends in 1997 before leaving the station.
Jordan Walker, a jazz enthusiast, and her ex-husband, David Walker, together published a free publication called Chicago Jazz Weekly, which existed for a time in the early 1990s.
Jordan Walker later hosted a weekly talk show called “Secrets of Success” on WYPA-AM in the late 1990s.
Jordan Walker returned to the airwaves in late 2003 as the morning host of WSRB-FM in Chicago. He left the station the following year.
After leaving radio, Jordan Walker became a publicist and ran the firm Candid Public Relations. One of his biggest clients was actor Bernie Mac, and he began working as a publicist for Mac and his wife while he was still in radio.
Other clients included the Walter Payton Foundation, Hadiya Pendleton Foundation, Chicago Bulls and Harlem Globetrotters. Jordan Walker represented Grammy-nominated singer Maysa Leak from 2009 until her death, and also promoted Sophia O. Williams, a cast member of the reality TV show “Belle Collective,” and her husband JJ.
For a time, Jordan Walker worked with another tour guide to take busloads of tourists on the “King of Pop Hometown Tour”; it was a four-hour hike through northwest Indiana landmarks, where Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 family have their origins. .
In 2012, Jordan Walker was part of the Bernie Mac Foundation’s effort to install an honorary street sign named after the late comedian at West 69th and South Sangamon streets in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. The honorary street name was Jordan Walker’s idea.
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“It’s been a long time coming,” he told the Tribune at the time.
Jordan Walker never retired from journalism.
“He loved people and what he loved most was being able to help them in any way possible,” his daughter said. “He loved inspiring people and helping them become the best versions of themselves.”
The marriage to David Walker ended in divorce. In addition to his daughter, Jordan Walker is survived by two sons, David and Jordan; his mother, Barbara Jordan; and two grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Lighthouse Church of All Nations, 4501 W. 127th St., Alsip.
Bob Goldsborough is a freelance reporter.