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Black History Tribute II

Jayne Kennedy Overton: actress, sportscaster and award-winner

By Janese Penegar
On February 20, 2020

Jayne Kennedy first became famous when she won the Miss Ohio USA title in 1970, a first for an African American. She was also one of the first women to become successful in the male-dominated world of sportscasting, winning an Emmy Award for her role on The NFL Today on CBS.

Jayne Kennedy Overton was born on Oct. 27, 1951, in Washington, D.C. She is an African American actress, model, and sportscaster. 

Jayne was crowned Miss Ohio USA 1970 (she was the first African American woman to win the title), and was one of the 10 semi-finalists in the 1970 Miss USA pageant. It was rare for an African American woman at that time to be in the contest. 

While starting her modeling career, she met Leon Isaac Kennedy, who was a DJ and a struggling actor/writer. They got married in 1970. Motown’s Smokey Robinson served as best man at the wedding. They moved to California to pursue careers in acting. 

During the 1970s, she had over 10 notable TV guest appearances, and roles in seven movies. 

In 1978, she was one of the first women to make it in the male-dominated world of sports announcing with a role on The NFL Today. While presenting for CBS she won an Emmy Award for her work reporting on the Rose Bowl Parade in 1977. 

She later received another Emmy nomination for her coverage of the South Korean soldiers in the DMZ. 

Kennedy says that her love of sports comes from growing up in Ohio, where everyone was crazy about the Cleveland Browns. 

Kennedy won a 1982 NAACP Image Award for outstanding actress in a motion picture for her performance as Julie Winters in the 1981 film Body and Soul, which she co-starred in alongside her then–husband Leon Isaac Kennedy. 

Jayne and Leon later divorced in 1982. 

In 1985, Kennedy married actor Bill Overton. They have four children: his daughter Cheyenne, born in 1982; and their three daughters Savannah Re born Nov. 20, 1985; Kopper Joi, born May 17, 1989; and Zaire Ollyea, born Sept. 15, 1995. 

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