By Tiffany Woodson
Carmen Marie Woodson-Wray wore many hats: youngest of seven children, tennis player during her high school years, photographer, reporter, favorite aunt to her nieces and nephews, Tiffany & Roxie’s mom, and wife. She had a piece of her to give to everyone she encountered. She fostered in her daughters a sense of what it meant to be strong, independent, young women living in a world of possibilities all at their disposal.
My earliest memories of my mother revolve around the walls of Info Newspaper. As a young girl, I had many opportunities to accompany her on news assignments as a reporter and photographer for Gary’s source for all things community related. I can remember many days in the dark room learning how to develop photographs with chemicals, before picture development became an instant process. I watched as she treated photography like a science, bringing life to every photograph with every dip in each chemical required to produce a memorable moment in the photographs my mother took.
My mother loved Gary, Indiana. She took pride in being a key component in keeping this community alive as a reporter. As I search through her photographs and prepare for the day where I have to say goodbye, I have the opportunity to relive many moments she captured through photographs. She has impacted the continuous evolution of Gary’s evolving political arena. I find photographs of political figures such as Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, former Calumet Township Trustee Dozier T. Allen, Lake County Assessor Jerome Prince, Judge Deidre Monroe, former Mayor Richard Hatcher, Gary City Clerk Suzette Raggs and former Mayor Scott King, just to name a few. I find pictures of celebrities that have visited Gary such as Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Yolanda Adams, Jada Pickett and Maya Angelou. Anyone that has held a political office in the City of Gary within the past 31 years or any notable public figure that has visited Gary in the past 31 years has a photograph among the countless number of family photos, wedding pictures and moments of my life that have been captured through my mother’s infamous camera lens. For 31 years, I have shared my mother with the City of Gary. For 31 years, I have received firsthand training on how to properly take a photo in such a way that it would become a memorable moment that can be reflected back on for eternity. Gary’s negative image may, at times, outshine the beauty this city may behold, but Carmen Woodson-Wray was the secret angel in this city that had a natural gift for finding the beauty this city possesses at any given moment.
Since her passing, I have been encouraged by the countless testimonies from many people my mother interviewed regarding stories she has written for Info and Crusader Newspaper. In my eyes, my mother leaves behind a legacy as one of the most influential journalists this city has ever seen. I’m not making this statement solely based on the fact that she’s my mother. I’m saying this because – for the past 31 years of my life – I had a front row seat to her long hours and weeks of dedication to her craft. Her legacy will continue to live on in every letter, proposal or contract that I write as someone who has inherited her gift of writing.
Tiffany Woodson is the daughter of Carmen Woodson-Wray.