Ralph P. Watson, former Wilkinsburg Council member, marketing guru, dies at 63

RALPH P. WATSON, who formerly was a Wilkinsburg School Board member and member of Wilkinsburg Borough Council, died on Sept. 28 at age 63. He was also known for his popular “Classic Events!” television show on PCTV-21 and his annual events which honored those making a difference in Pittsburgh.

by Renee P. Aldrich, For New Pittsburgh Courier

In a quiet dignified homegoing service, on Friday, Oct. 8, the Honorable Ralph Philip Watson was laid to rest.

Held at Mt. Ararat Baptist Church, many people bid their final farewells to the man who had, through his “Classic Events!” platform, honored hundreds of people in the Pittsburgh region over the years.

Eulogized by Mt. Ararat Pastor William Curtis, Watson, a native of Wilkinsburg, passed away on Sept. 28. He was 63. Pastor Curtis, in his eulogy, quoted the biblical scripture, Psalms  37:23—“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and he delighteth in his way.”   

“Ralph P. Watson may not have been an ordained minister of the gospel, but I feel that his steps on this earth were indeed an assignment of God to the Pittsburgh community at-large,” said Jacquelyn McDonald, friend of Watson and photographer who captured images at his events. “And he used his platform, ‘Classic Events!,’ to shine on and pay homage to individuals working to uplift the community—and in doing so he uplifted the community. It is my hope that his legacy and commitment to highlighting people for their talent and gifts will be continued through our future leaders.”

RALPH P. WATSON was given a proclamation by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto in this 2016 photo.

Celebration of his life included the reading of a proclamation from Congressman Mike Doyle and two solos by Valetta O’Kelly and Gale Brown.  A repast immediately following internment at Allegheny Cemetery was held at the Mt. Ararat Community Center. 

Watson had a special affinity for promoting entrepreneurship, and being a former elected official himself, he respected and understood what it took to be a politician. He had served on the Wilkinsburg School Board and on Wilkinsburg Borough Council.

“I’ve known Ralph for quite some time. Even as a young man, he was very active in our community and remained dedicated his entire life,” said Paige Trice, vice president of the Wilkinsburg Borough Council. “At the time of his passing, Ralph was vice chair of the Wilkinsburg Democratic Committee. He will be sadly missed by all.”

Notables in attendance at the service also included State Senator Jay Costa, former Allegheny County District Attorney candidate Turahn Jenkins, retired Pittsburgh Police Officer Brenda Tate, and Pittsburgh Democratic Mayoral Candidate Ed Gainey, who was  recently recognized by Watson at Watson’s annual Black History event in February.

“The city, Wilkinsburg, and this region has lost an icon. Ralph was more than a friend, he was my brother. He was an uncommon seed that gave life to everything he touched. In remembrance of him, I will commit to continue to give life to everything I touch,” Rep. Gainey said.


Since 2013, Watson hosted his “Classic Events!” television show on Pittsburgh Community Television (21). In September of 2019, he held a grand celebration at the station for his 100th program.

“Ralph brought so much to the community and he was an outstanding human being full of light, encouragement, and enthusiasm,” said John Patterson, executive director of PCTV-21. “His PCTV show, ‘Classic Events Entrepreneur Platform,’ gave a platform to countless guests from the community including politicians (established and upcoming), entrepreneurs, and community leaders… ‘Classic Events Entrepreneur Platform’ was an award-winning show, taking home the Best Series Award for the 2018 Greater Pittsburgh Community Media Awards. In 2019 he was the awarded the Flo Rice Community Producer Award.  To say that Ralph will be missed is an understatement. It was an honor and privilege to have him in our studio and to know him as a person.”

CLASSIC EVENTS! FOUNDER RALPH P. WATSON gave local entrepreneurs a chance to showcase their business or product on his PCTV-21 television show for years. In this photo, dated Sept. 26, 2019, Watson celebrated his 100th show with many supporters and friends at the North Side studios. Pictured with Watson is State Farm Insurance Agent Danielle Howard.

The homegoing service’s program booklet was replete with photos of the many who had been honored at one of the many in-person events Watson held over the years. His friend, Gale Brown: “Ralph was a very special  friend, and has left a major footprint in the Pittsburgh community; he was serious about connecting entrepreneurs, creating opportunities for youth entrepreneurs, and saluting the achievements of professionals in various entities—what he has done may be replicated but it won’t be duplicated; his passing will leave a void that won’t be filled—at least not the way he did it.”

Brown’s husband, Leslie Brown, added: “It is also very important to note that the cost of much of what he did came out of his pocket; these elegant, classy events were, overall, his own grassroots effort. His events had the right name, because he was a friend to all and a ‘classic gentleman.’”



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