Hubert Jessup, a pioneer in Boston television, passed away on February 17, 2020, in Santa Barbara, California, with his wife of 52 years, Marie Steventon Jessup, by his side. Jessup, who was 73, grew up in Ivanhoe CA, lived most of his adult life in Massachusetts, and returned to live in Santa Barbara in 2013. He was a graduate of University of California Santa Barbara and Harvard Divinity School. Before moving to Harvard, he served as a junior fellow at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara, and helped research the origins of the New Testament with the late Bishop James Pike. Bishop Pike officiated at Hubert and Marie’s wedding in the gardens of Santa Barbara’s El Encanto Hotel.
Jessup will be most remembered for creating three innovative and award-winning television series for ABC Boston affiliate WCVB-TV: New Heaven/New Earth; The Baxters’; and Park Street Under.
On New Heaven, Jessup merged programs on religion and social conscience, presented award-winning programs on Thoreau and the poetry of Thomas Merton; and interviewed the Dalai Lama; Dorothy Day; Baba Ram Das; Sioux Medicine Man, Lame Deer; Harvard Theologian, Peter Gomes; and labor activist, Cesar Chavez.
Jessup’s work with Chavez deepened his own experience with non-violent protest advancing social and economic justice in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley where he grew up.
In 1978, Jessup was awarded an Emmy by the New England Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) for his creation of The Baxters’. For The Baxters’, the best-known original program produced by WCVB in the 70’s, Jessup created a unique format: an original performance in the first half, while the second half featured a dialogue between audience and panelists about the show and the issues it explored. The Baxters’ began as a local program in 1977 and was purchased after two years by Norman Lear, who took the show to Hollywood and sold it into first-run syndication for the 1979-1980 season. Jessup created New Heaven/New Earth and the Baxters’ to provide people new ways to explore the meaning of their lives..
”…Broadcasting should make audiences examine and challenge their beliefs, not merely reaffirm them,” he often said.
Jessup created and produced ‘Park Street Under’, the first locally-produced situation comedy set in a
downstairs bar. With well-known actors playing quintessentially Boston characters, the show won a reputation for being winningly attuned to the tastes and sensibilities of the city, right from its debut in 1979. Industry insiders consider Park Street Under to be the inspiration behind hit NBC sit-com, Cheers.
From 1982-1984 he hosted his own radio show on Boston’s WHDH Radio. A Boston Globe review in 1984 observed, “At a time when the airwaves are clogged with banality, Jessup is a voice of intellect, liberalism, sensitivity and fairness.”
Jessup served as both President of the New England Chapter and as a National Trustee of NATAS, where he was instrumental in creating and implementing its media literacy project, Creating Critical Viewers, a high school curriculum using the top educational leaders in the country.
From 1985-1996, Jessup worked as the General Manager of BNN, Boston Community Access and Programming Foundation, the first of its kind in the country.
Jessup also taught at many area colleges including, Harvard Divinity School, University of Massachusetts, Boston, and Boston University. He later served as an executive at Los Angeles media think tank, Media Scope, researching the effects of smoking, violence and alcohol in television programming.
After joining the Greater Boston Track Club at age 42, he ran 11 Boston Marathons, often training by running to work in Boston from his home in Newton Highlands.
A wonderful husband and father, he leaves sons Ethan (daughter-in-law Sara Schaeffner) and Micah (daughter-in-law Laura Duncan); two grandsons, Luka and Kaleb; and his sister, Arvilla Boswell. And he leaves his beloved wife, Marie.
A memorial service will be held June 20th , 2020 at 2:00 pm at All Saints Parish, Brookline, MA 02445. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to: ATTN: Park Donation, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, 47050 Generals Highway, Three Rivers, CA 93271, where he loved to backpack and hike with his family.