A Day in the Life of Phyllis Tucker Vinson
By Jocelyn Jones
Phyllis Tucker Vinson is a children’s television programming pioneer. She is among the first women and the first African-American woman to develop children’s television programming for a major television network.
Vinson entered the field as a single mother armed only with typing skills, yet she quickly turned her limited experience into a full-time job in children’s television programming at NBC. Once television network executives saw her talent, they gave her more opportunities and she became an assistant in the research department. A determined worker, within a month Vinson was conducting group discussions on television research.
“This led to me [to] developing,” Vinson said. “Because of my child development background, they ended up using the resources that I had to develop children’s testing.” About four or five years later, Vinson became vice president of children’s programming.
Vinson has created great television programs such as “The Smurfs,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” “Saved by the Bell”, “Mr. T”, and “The Gary Coleman Show.” As a programming executive in dramatic programming, Vinson oversaw “Little House on the Prairie” and shows that are currently in syndication.
Ideas for children’s television programming are not limited to the United States, Vinson said. She encouraged young people with an interest in children’s television to create stories from characters in represented in literature, folkways, stories and mythologies from the African Diaspora. “Do animated cartoons for children that tell our stories. Look at our folktales and our mythologies, and make them into animated shows for our kids.”
Vinson advises young people to think globally. “You have to think outside of the United States, and you have to think in terms of [global] media.” She recommended that young people should look for job opportunities all over the world. “Once you get a skill, no one can take it away from you.”