In 1945, before Jackie Robinson played Major League baseball, or Marian Anderson sang at the Metropolitan Opera, Georg Olden, the grandson of a slave, took a job with CBS.
Olden pioneered the field of broadcast graphics. Working under CBS’s art director, William Golden, he supervised the identities of programs such as I Love Lucy, Lassie, and Gunsmoke. Olden was widely celebrated in his day. By 1970, he had won seven Clio awards and had even designed the
Olden attended Dunbar High School in D.C. and nearby Virginia State College before dropping out shortly after Pearl Harbor to work as a graphic designer for the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the CIA.
When the war ended in 1945, his OSS supervisor recommended him to the agency’s communications director, Colonel Lawrence W. Lowman, who in civilian life was vice president of CBS’s TV division. From a one-man operation involved with six programs a week, Olden eventually headed a staff of 14 in charge of 60 weekly shows.
When he joined the network in 1945, there were 16,000 TV sets in the entire U.S. By the time he left in 1960, there were 85 million sets, one for every two Americans.
In 1963, he joined an elite department within the ad agency McCann-Erickson. That year, he became the first African American to design a postage stamp — a broken chain commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. At a White House ceremony with Olden in attendance, President John F. Kennedy praised the stamp as
“a reminder of the extraordinary actions in the past as well as the business of the future.”