Vernon Jarrett (June 19, 1918 – May 23, 2004) was an African-American journalist who worked in newspaper, television and radio and was an influential commentator on race relations, politics, and African-American history.
Jarrett was born in Paris, Tennessee; his parents were schoolteachers. He graduated from Knoxville College in Tennessee. He moved to Chicago in 1946 and began his journalism career at the Chicago Defender. In his first assignment for the Defender, he covered a race riot. He also worked for the Associated Negro Press during the 1940s. For three years beginning in 1948 he partnered with composer Oscar Brown, Jr. to produce Negro Newsfront, the first daily radio news broadcast in the United States to be created by African Americans.
Jarrett was the first African American to be a syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune, beginning in 1970. During his years at the Tribune, he also was a host on Chicago's ABC-TV station, WLS, where he produced nearly 2,000 television broadcasts. In 1983, he left the Tribune for the Chicago Sun-Times as an op-ed columnist. He later became a member of the Sun-Times editorial board, and retired from the Sun-Times in 1995.
In 1974, Jarrett established the ACT-SO program for the Chicago NAACP. He soon realized it should be made a national program and worked to have the national NAACP adopt it and help to foster it nationwide. As of 2016, over 200,000 students from across the country have participated in the competition.
The Vernon Jarrett Medal for Journalistic Excellence is awarded annually by the Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University to honor "outstanding coverage of people of African descent and the issues that impact their lives." Jarrett also began the ACT-SO program to assist inner-city youth in academic fields and shine a light on them for achievement in these areas.