Jerry Phillips, WHUR-FM, 96.3: He starts, then stops, then starts -- his voice idling like a hesitant engine as he tries to describe himself.

"I try to be . . . I try to be . . . Gee, I don't know. How do I characterize myself?""

He just did.

A little corny and uncertain, Jerry Phillips is the good-natured, easy-going personality of the Morning Sound radio program, heard weekdays from 5 to 10 a.m.

In the three years since the show began, it has lurched into prominence as the unofficial voice of black community radio. Phillips, a nativee Washingtonian, is the beloved son.

His popularity has become such that along with Melvin Lindsey, another WHUR announcer, he has been signed to the three-year contract. Robert Taylor, general manager of WHUR, would not reveal their salaries, but said Phillips and Lindsey are the highest-paid announcers at the station.

"It's new and a first," said Taylor of the contracts. "It was designed more as a reward than anyting else, for the work they've done."

The Morning Sound show feeds its listeners a steady diet of service announcements, community forums, progressive music and jazz. Topical subjects are discussed once a month on the Morning Sound Breakfast Club, aired live from the Harambee Hotel. Mayor Marion Barry, among other city officals, can comfortably call in to the station to present his views.

"I think the show has gotten to the point that people expect us to do certain things," Phillips said. "The days of hominy grits and slapstick deejayism are gone."

In a trade where success and demands are often dictated by listener rating, Phillips is launching a crusade for program accountability. Black people are becoming more selective in their radio listening habits, he says, so radio in the '80s must be varied and accountable to community needs.

"Black broadcasters for the '80s have got to be very selective in who they hire for programming," he declared. "What we do on the Morning Sound reflects the style and the warmth of the producer.

"There's no creativity in black radio now. It has been controlled by the record industry to make money off of teen-agers. But it has to change. Black radio will lose in the '80s if it doesn't lend itself to creativity, originality and take on responsiblity of good programming."