Chicagoans among NABJ Hall of Fame inductees

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High School classmates: Willetta Phipps, Dr. Evelyn Boyer and Diana Wright (seated) and Dr. Anthony Fitchue (left standing), joined Dorothy R. Leavell; Dr. Benjamin Chavis, NNPA President; Lynn Norment and Melody McDowell at the NABJ luncheon.

By Lynn Norment

Dorothy R. Leavell, publisher of the Chicago Crusader and Gary Crusader newspapers, was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Hall of Fame during the organization’s recent conference in Washington, D.C. John H. White, Chicago’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist and photojournalism educator, also was inducted into the NABJ Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame is the highest recognition given by NABJ, which is the largest organization of journalists of color in the nation. The induction ceremony took place during a luncheon at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel as a continuation of NABJ’s 40th Anniversary Celebration. The NABJ Hall of Fame was created in 1990 when 10 distinguished historical journalists became its charter members.

NABJ President Sarah Glover said of the 2016 inductees, “Since 1990, NABJ has honored pioneering journalists who represent the best and brightest in journalism and whose contributions to the craft have been legendary in nature. Our honorees are role models who have committed themselves to ensuring freedom of the press and phenomenal reporting and storytelling.”

Publisher Leavell, who has been at the helm of the Black Press of America for decades, was introduced with a video of her contributions to the media and to the Chicago and Gary communities, and then by the luncheon’s emcee, Bill Whitaker, who is in his second year as correspondent for CBS’s “60 Minutes.”

“I wish to thank the National Association of Black Journalists for this coveted honor of being inducted in their Hall of Fame,” Mrs. Leavell said as she accepted the exquisite crystal award.

“I consider myself to be perhaps jaded and not excited about many things these days, but I found myself so excited to be recognized by NABJ. You see there has been some history of differences between Black Newspaper Publishers and Black Journalists that I sought to change when I served as president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association during the years of 1995-1999, when the mission of my presidency was ‘Building Bridges.’ I see this honor as being a major accomplishment of that mission. And I appreciate my family, friends and associates present here today to witness this honor. Thank you NABJ!”

More than 30 family members and friends, who had traveled from Chicago and other cities to share the occasion with her, accompanied Mrs. Leavell at the luncheon. That evening, Publisher Leavell hosted a special reception for her guests.

“Dorothy Leavell is so deserving of this honor,” says Maureen Bunyan, an NABJ founder, anchor with WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C., and chair of the NABJ Hall of Fame Committee. “When she was nominated for induction into the NABJ Hall of Fame because of her inspiring accomplishments, the only discussion was accolades and the decision was unanimous.”

In 1968, Mrs. Leavell began serving as editor and publisher of the Crusader Newspaper Group after the death of her first husband, Balm L. Leavell Jr., who co-founded the Chicago Crusader in 1940 and Gary Crusader in 1961. She was president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) for many years and also elected chairman of the NNPA Foundation. In 2011, she was named NNPA “Publisher of the Year.” In an NABJ press release, Publisher Leavell was referred to as the “Chicago-based crusading force and voice of the Black Press in America.”

NABJ Hall of Fame Inductee John White has traveled around the world as a photojournalist for the Chicago Sun-Times Newspaper. He also was a photography teacher and head of the photojournalism department at Chicago’s Columbia College. Throughout his 30-year career, he has earned more than 300 awards, including the prestigious Pulitzer Prize. His first book, a visual diary of Archbishop of Chicago Joseph Bernadine, published in 1996, was a best seller.

The National Association of Black Journalists was founded by 44 men and women who gathered on December 12, 1975, in Washington, D.C., at the Wardman Park Hotel, where the recent NABJ conference was held. Today the organization of more than 3,000 members provides quality programs and services, as well as advocates on behalf of Black journalists worldwide. NABJ is the largest organization for journalists of color in the nation, and provides career development, as well as educational and other support to its members worldwide.

Among other Chicago-area journalists and publishers who have been inducted into the NABJ Hall of Fame are Ebony/Jet Publisher John H. Johnson, Journalist/Historian Lerone Bennett Jr., Journalist/Commentator Vernon Jarrett, Television Personality Merri Dee, and Ebony Editor Lynn Norment (Lynn Norment Media).

The organization’s Founders who previously had not been inducted into the NABJ Hall of Fame were recognized, along with 12 other Hall of Fame inductees. In addition to Publisher Leavell and Photographer John H. White, the inductees were:

Tony Brown – Broadcast journalism legend, producer and host of “Tony Brown’s Journal,” the longest-running national Black-affairs TV series in history;

Charles Gerald Fraser – The late New York Times journalism pioneer and inspirational mentor for generations of reporters;

Monica Kaufman Pearson – First African American and first woman to anchor a daily evening Atlanta television news broadcast;

Dori Maynard – The late president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and advocate for diversity in American journalism;

Gil Noble – The late producer and host of WABC-TV’s iconic program, “Like It Is”;

Austin Long-Scott – Integrated the Associated Press full-time reporting staff, powerful Washington Post and Los Angeles Times social justice writer and journalism educator;

Stuart Scott – The late ESPN journalist and pioneer who changed the way sports broadcasting was managed;

Jacqueline Trescott – Compelling and groundbreaking writer for the Washington Post on the cultural life and achievements of African Americans;

Morrie Turner – The late creator of “Wee Pals,” the first syndicated comic strip with racially and ethnically diverse characters; and

  1. Alex Wilson – The late courageous reporter of the Civil Rights Movement for Sengstacke Newspapers in the 1950s.

 

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