Black History Month Feature: Jim Tilmon

by Jackson Dowell, WVTV Reporter

Jim Tilmon was a longtime meteorologist for NBC and CBS television in Chicago.

(photo credit / Joan Tilmon)

Prior to his career in journalism, Tilmon soared the skies. He learned to fly while serving in Lincoln University’s ROTC programs while pursuing degrees in chemistry, education, and music. He later worked in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and left to pursue a career as a pilot. Tilmon was American Airlines third African-American commercial airline pilot and the nation’s fifth. 

After a 29-year career in aviation, Tilmon decided to pursue a career in journalism. Before joining NBC 5, he began his broadcasting career at WTTW Channel 11 in Chicago, by hosting “Our people,” the first weekly live show developed for and by African-Americans that featured many prestigious and renowned influential figures, such as James Baldwin, Muhammed Ali, and Harold Washington.

He moved to NBC 5 in 1972 and was the host of “Tilmon Tempo”, an Emmy award winning, weekly magazine show where he was an on-air weather forecaster and eventually a science and aviation reporter. Tilmon was a trailblazer and paved the way for black Americans in broadcasting. 

Loved by all for his easy going nature, Tilmon was a household name for Chicagoans, and Mayor Richard M. Daley proclaimed it “Jim Tilmon Day” in Chicago when he retired in 1994. Tilmon pssed away in January 2021 at the age of 86.