Gene Shelton received the College of Communication and Information’s Outstanding Teacher Award in 2013. At the end of the fall semester he was honored with Kent State University’s Diversity Trailblazer Award, the university’s highest recognition to a campus, college, school or individual for advocating and advancing diversity.
An associate professor and co-chairman of the diversity and globalization committee for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Shelton sits on the provost advisory council for non-tenure track professors. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Kent State. His master’s thesis was titled Moral Agency and Ethnic Minorities: Are the Television Networks Doing the Right Thing?
Shelton’s career spans 42 years. He graduated in 1972 and reported for The Cleveland Press and hosted Here It Is, a public affairs program on Cleveland’s NBC affiliate WKYC-TV. While studying for a master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin, he taught journalism at UW-West Bend and served as the school’s public information officer.
An interview in 1975 with acclaimed singer Roberta Flack for a Milwaukee Sentinel feature influenced a career change and a move to Los Angeles. Shelton became a writer and publicist for Motown Records. Rick James was his first artist. From Motown he moved to CBS Records were he worked for Columbia and Epic Records. As Michael Jackson’s publicist, he wrote the official Jackson bio for the multi-platinum LP Off The Wall. He returned to Motown in 1981 as manager of press and artist relations to help launch Lionel Richie’s solo career and to publicize the Emmy Award winning Motown: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow television special. After leaving Motown, he was hired by CBS to promote Jackson’s Thriller. Before returning to Kent State, Shelton was vice-president of media relations for Warner Bros. Records.
Shelton’s work has been behind the media profiles of such artists as Jackson and Richie, Prince, Miles Davis, Ray Charles, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Seal, Michael McDonald, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Luther Vandross, Patti LaBelle, Earth Wind and Fire, Ronald Isley, The O’Jays, Barry White, Carl Wilson of The Beach Boys, Randy Meisner of The Eagles, George Clinton, Chaka Khan, George Benson, Mavis Staples, Tevin Campbell, Big Daddy Kane, Ice-T, Biz Markie, The Winans, Take 6 and countless others. He knew Shawn Carter and Sean Combs before they became internationally known as Jay-Z and Puffy, Diddy, etc.
Shelton wrote liner notes for Motown’s Diana Ross Anthology and greatest hits albums by Diana Ross and The Supremes and The Four Tops. He publicized the film soundtracks to Boyz in The Hood, New Jack City, Quincy Jones’ Listen Up!, Graffiti Bridge and A Thin Line Between Love and Hate. In addition he wrote Gene’s Hollywood Hotline for teen magazine Right On!
His public relations work was not limited to the music industry. He was a publicist for the late motorcycle daredevil Evel Knivel, network television stars Taurean Blacque (Hill Street Blues) and Marla Gibbs (227). He served as press secretary to the late U.S. Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D.CA) and he directed public relations and marketing campaigns for The Coca-Cola Company for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, McDonald’s Gospelfest, Coors Brewery, Martin Luther King, Jr. Week for the Los Angeles Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Bishop Charles Blake and The West Angeles Church of God and Christ, The Charles E. Drew University and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
Courses taught by Shelton include: Media, Power & Culture, African American Media, Record Promotion and First Year Experience.