Hall of Fame: 2007
Don Kent is the first name in New England meteorology. For fifty years, he was the voice and face of the most authoritative weather forecasting on the air. With his inimitable Massachusetts accent and his irrepressible enthusiasm for all things weather, he set the standard for every forecaster who followed in his footsteps.
Don Kent was born and raised in Quincy. His first foray into meteorology was in the third grade, where his teacher caught him staring out the window and encouraged his interest in weather by having him write the day’s forecast on the blackboard every morning.
He heard New England’s first radio weatherman, E. B. Rideout, on WEEI in 1923, and met him when he was only twelve years old. He discovered that Rideout also had a small business providing weather forecasts to municipalities and commercial customers, and began to see a career path for himself.
He began his radio career in the early 1930s. His first important exposure came on WMEX (1935 -1938), where he provided five-minute forecasts every day without compensation, making up for his lack of a college degree with enthusiasm for his subject and self-education.
During World War II, Kent worked as a weather observer and adviser for the Coast Guard. In one memorable incident, he defied the advice of more seasoned forecasters and urged his superiors to keep Navy planes on the ground because of the danger of icing. Other units ignored his advice and several craft went into the sea. Kent’s forecasts saved the lives of airmen in his own unit.
It wasn’t until 1946 that Kent began his real broadcasting career, when he was asked by WJDA in Quincy to comment on a hurricane moving up the Atlantic coast. His personal observations demonstrated to local station managers that they could make weather forecasts more meaningful to their listeners by having customized reports rather than generic information from the US Weather Service. When Kent began his regular broadcast forecasts for WJDA in 1947, he had to do them on the cheap – relying on reports from ham radio operators and conversations he overheard between pilots in flight for his data.
In 1951, Kent was hired by WBZ radio as staff meteorologist, and by 1955, he began appearing on WBZ-TV. He remained a fixture of both stations’ programming, his stature and reputation growing year by year, until his retirement in 1983. During those thirty years, he continued to build his knowledge by taking college-level courses at MIT. He embraced and contributed to each technical innovation in broadcast forecasting – weather maps, electronic symbols, animation, radar pictures – and, because he included the terms and signs of professional meteorology on the air, he was instrumental in developing greater public understanding in Massachusetts and the other New England states of the forces in the atmosphere that have an impact on the weather.
After his retirement from WBZ, Kent continued providing forecasts to stations throughout New England, including WQRC in Hyannis, until 2003.
He died on March 2, 2010.