Uncle Ted Roberts Tribute

Posted June 9th, 2013 at 5:49 pm (UTC-4)

Uncle Ted & Sonny

A Retirement Celebration was held June 8, 2013, for my friend, mentor and former Voice of America colleague “Uncle” Ted Roberts, who recently stepped down after 42 years of teaching at Howard University here in Washington, D.C. The following is my tribute speech at the ceremony:

“Is everything okay? Is everything alright? I hope so!” This was one of the signature on-air phrases of my friend and longtime Voice of America colleague, “Uncle” Ted Roberts.  Two short questions, followed by a short, three word sentence:  “I hope so!” The key word for me is that middle one: “hope.”

Uncle Ted’s “Radio Cake” at his Retirement Celebration

Whether he was working with young students at Howard, or working with young VOA interns in our office, Uncle Ted was, and is, very much about hope.

One of my favorite movies, The Shawshank Redemption, came out almost 20 years ago.  And one of my favorite scenes comes near the end of the film.

The character Red reads a letter from his friend and former prison buddy Andy, who writes, “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things – and no good thing ever dies.”

Uncle Ted inspired hope not just in his students and in his colleagues, but also in the millions of VOA listeners who tuned in to his popular Nightline Africa radio broadcast on the weekend.  This show, with Uncle Ted behind the microphone, was very much about hope, and it was very much a communal experience.

Ted founded his Nightline Family, a Nightline Africa fan club with thousands of registered members and chapters all over Africa and the Caribbean.

There was an entertainment aspect to the program – Uncle Ted would give riddles and play oldies music: “a blast from my past … music among my souvenirs” is how he described it.

But there was also a hopeful, compassionate, humanitarian element to the show.  When I look back on Uncle Ted’s broadcasting career at the Voice of America, I think one of his greatest legacies was creating an award-winning program called Missing Link.  Ted was the Main Link in Missing Link– the conduit who brought together African families separated by war, political upheaval or natural disaster.  Ted read letters and recorded messages from refugees, who asked for help in locating their loved ones, and he’s credited with reuniting hundreds of families.

Uncle Ted, Liberian soccer great George Weah and Sonny in VOA studio in 2004.

Ted’s empathy and generosity was seen on an international scale through programs like this, but also on a smaller scale in our office.  I remember Uncle Ted always bringing in food for his colleagues, like doughnuts, chicken and Chinese food.  Uncle Ted also kept a big candy jar at his desk – he caught my hand in it a few times!

And just as I took candy from Ted’s jar, I also took sweet nuggets of his style, delivery and programs for use on my own show.  Remember, sports fans, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

One of Ted’s many Nightline Africa radio friends, Ateka, wrote the following after hearing of his retirement from VOA in 2009:  “Just like other members of the Nightline Family, I love Uncle Ted so much.  It was his baritone voice, his professionalism, his warm sense of humor and passion for his work that kept me and other members of his Nightline Family hooked to the radio whenever he was on the air.  Then, whenever he signed off, Ted always had a quote that inspired us.”

When you sign off by inspiring someone, you leave them with hope.  And so, Uncle Ted, thank you for the inspiration, and thank you for the hope.


Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

12 responses to “Uncle Ted Roberts Tribute”

  1. I love u Uncle Ted. In dat small village in Awo I could hear loud n clear. A wkend without night line Africa is like an asthmatic person without inhaler. Uncle, i just stumbled on ur profile on google. Thank God 4 d gift of life Uncle Ted. My family will eva remain indebted to you 4 ur advice afta each show. More of my letas to u, d CHOSEN ONE. GOD BLESS YOU!

  2. Uncle Ted was simply magnificient at his nightline Africa family program. One of his greatest masterpiece was his letter of inspiration titled: “Letter to Abdul, my African brother”. I solemnly wish I could have that epistle! Can anyone forward this epietle to me? I was a member of his nightline family with membership Number 3299. I really missed him.

  3. Ateka says:

    Thanks for this write-up. I remember your sports segment as well. You are the guys who made me almost plunge into radio during my days as a journalism student. You inspired us.

  4. Laide Ishola says:

    I was a regular listener to Uncle Ted Roberts’ programmes on voa-africa during Sani Abacha’s era. I would be so happy if anyone can reproduce some of his inspirational messages here, like “A Fighter’s Success” etc. I had them all as a collection but now lost.

  5. musa shudugam says:

    I love uncle Ted, he made me love listening to the radio. As a young boy in the mid 90s, i stopped turning my mum radio on voa. I was captured by the night line program.
    Uncle Ted words were so touching. “The nightline train,where are you, where is your family, what happened? etc. Words like were touching and making you to have HOPE that one day the broken link will be linked. But, why was this program stop?

  6. Ndi Derek Nganji says:

    GROWING Up As A Young Student In The Remote Village Of Binka In The North West Province Of Cameroon, UNCLE TED ROBERT Has Been My BEST Radio Companion And Number One Mentor In The Use Of English Language To Bless $ Inspire People.I Have Enjoyed His Wonderful Voice And Wise Expressions For Nine Years i.e From When I First Discovered Him On Radio In The Year 2000 Up To 2009 When He Retired.His Top VOA Radio Program, Night Line Africa Has Deeply Educated Me About My Continent Africa, Its People, History, Cultural Heritage And Much More.Oh! I Thank GOD So Immensely For His Life.I Am Deeply Indebted To All His Colleagues Especially Mama MAGARET Derekay For Her Great Words Of Inspiration, Experience And Encouragement.Oh! Can Someone Graciously Forward To Me The Email Address Of This My Great UNCLE TED And My Great AUNTY MAGARET D.? I Will Be More Than Happy.I Am Today A College Teacher Of ENGLISH And LITERATURE And UNCLE TED And All His Crew Has Contributed Much To This. Long Live The Nightline Africa Family. Derek

  7. Joko S. Mulbah says:

    Uncle Ted, made a great inspiration in my life as a refugee in the Republic of Guinea during his Nightline Africa program: the Music, riddles and most of all the phrase” IS EVERYTHING OKAY?, IS EVERYTHING ALRIGHT? I HOPE SO!!!’ when hope was too far for reach, you brought hope close to your listeners, at the end you always told us to take care, my friend, you had so many friends

    Thanks so much.

  8. Musa Gunu says:

    Wow. Never gonna forget Uncle Ted’s Nightline Africa, “Where everybody is somebody and where nobody is anybody ” ….
    I hope i remember those phrases well.. Lol.
    Ted’s exit from the Radio room really created a huge vacuum…
    Thanks Mr Sonny, at least, you still remind us of the good old days. Your Sonny Side Of sports is still unbeatable.
    I was telling the story of uncle Ted to my wife when i stumbled on this tribute. I love this.
    The Nightline family miss our missing link, Uncle Ted.

  9. Richard G Tarley says:

    I never knew that uncle Ted been retired since 2013 until tonight. May God bless you uncle Ted,and congratulation. Your radio program was one of my best in those days(1997-2003) before my departure to the United States. I just thought on your program and wanted to download it on my iPhone,but unfortunate I learned that you had been retired. I hope everything going well with you and your family.

  10. Kanayo okoli uchechukwu says:

    I am yet to face the reality that Uncle Ted Roberts has really retired, I have often kept a Date with the Nightline Africa and Sunny Side of sports turning and tuning the nub of my small world radio receiver to hear your elegance voice, Uncle Ted. Uncle Ted, wouldn’t be better you come around the console, pick the microphone once more and talk to us especially your listeners from Nigeria passing through hunger and malnutrition as a result of bad leadership and corruption. Let my wait to hear that you will keep a date one August day with a August smiles on our faces. Kanayo okoli uchechukwu.+2348035451004

  11. Ndifreke clement effiong says:

    It hurts me that i cant tune in to night line africa again. Yet i would dwell on the happy moments i had listening to uncle ‘ted’ roberts. you were awesome. ‘ do you know where your children are tonigt?’ oh what a great man with baritone voice. God bless uncle Edgarton Roberts.

  12. Sonny Young Sonny Young says:

    Many happy listening moments with Uncle Ted, Clement! More grease to your sporty elbows, buddy!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Sonny Side of Sports is an energetic and action-packed look at both world and African sports, broadcast on radio, TV and the Internet. Since the show’s creation in 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

The Sonny Side of Sports is broadcast Monday through Friday at 1630 and 1830 UTC/GMT. And on Fridays at 1730 UTC/GMT, Sonny has an expanded 30-minute sports show.

Brighten your day by tuning in the Sonny Side of Sports!

» Listen to the latest show


Latest Videos



When you hear the VOA identification press 60

Postal Mail
Voice of America
Room 1613
330 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20237