Contributed By The 411 News
Businesswoman, journalist, wife, mom, and educator
Imogene Harris, who founded Gary’s INFO Newspaper has died, family members announced July 22. She was 88. Harris and her late husband James Templeton Harris published INFO, a weekly, from 1963 until 2006.
With its motto of ‘Eye on the Community,’ INFO filled the bill of a community newspaper in every sense.
Passionate about publishing, J.T. and Imogene were eager to showcase their community’s citizens, activities, and issues.They recruited and trained several generations of journalists, photographers, secretaries, accountants, bookkeepers, and printers.
Vernon Williams, IUPUI Communications and Community Engagement Strategist, was a student at Roosevelt High in the 60s and was among the early INFO Teen Scene reporters Imogene encouraged. After college and more work for INFO, he became a Gary Post Tribune reporter and columnist.
Williams remembers other journalists who got their start at INFO – Cynthia Minor, Craig Marberry, Al Boswell, Chuck Deggans, Tommy Williams, Ana McCune, Paula Wilson, Robin Marcus, Carmen Wray, Carmen McCullom, and Donna Britt – and went on to continue their work for other media outlets.
“My brother worked for INFO,” “My aunt worked for INFO,” “I used to deliver INFO,” “Our teacher took us on a field trip to INFO,” “I used to work for INFO,” are some of the many conversations recalled from meeting those who remembered INFO Newspaper.
Imogene was a Gary school teacher and J.T. operated Harris Printing when INFO was born. First modeled on JET Magazine, the format soon changed to a tabloid newspaper style.
Its emergence in the 1960s came as civil rights became a major issue in Black communities across the nation. INFO shared its community’s demands for a wider voice in local government, access to better housing, jobs, and education.
INFO filled the void for a Black community mostly ignored by the Post Tribune, Gary’s daily newspaper that catered to its white readers.
Gary was a city of 178,320 in the 1960 Census with a Black population of 69,340; a big jump from the 1950 Census population of 133,911 with 39,326 Blacks.
Its Black population was packed into the city’s Midtown or Central District, an area bounded on the north by the Wabash Railroad tracks, along 9th Avenue and on the south by the Little Calumet River that meanders along I-80/94. Midtown’s eastern border was Gary’s city limits shared with the Town of East Gary, now Lake Station. Its western edge was the Tolleston area, a boundary that had become porous as the Black population grew.
INFO arrived to help capture the messages of a vibrant Midtown with thriving businesses, churches, schools, civic and social scenes. INFO was not the only newspaper serving the bustling district and was pushed by its competitors to become the largest. Today, the Gary Crusader is the only survivor from that era.
The Harrises devoted time and resources to promote the Gary Urban League and Gary NAACP. The INFO was a member of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and Imogene was a founding member of the Lake County Association of Black Communicators.
“I had the privilege of sharing the wonderful citizens of Gary with the Harris couple, Imogene and J.T., as supporters of the INFO and the Gary Crusader newspapers. The Harrises were revered as legends and highly respected in Gary. More specifically, Imogene and I worked together to host the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) in their annual convention in 1983. As a result, the convention that featured Mayor Harold Washington, Mayor-elect of the city of Chicago and Richard G. Hatcher, Mayor of Gary, was lauded as one of the greatest NNPA conventions ever,” said Dorothy R. Leavell, Editor and Publisher of the Gary Crusader.
“Imogene, known for her sharp mind and incisive analyzation of issues has been missed since she retired from the newspaper field a few years back, but her fingerprints are abounding in Gary’s history and indelible in the skills of the reporters, photographers and other employees of the
INFO she nurtured,” Leavell concluded.
Tracy Coleman, a Gary attorney and a Teen Scene reporter from a later generation remembered Imogene and INFO. “The importance of the Black Press cannot be stressed enough. I have so much respect and admiration for Mrs. Harris.
She was a businesswoman, journalist, wife, mom, and educator. She wore so many hats and wore them well.”
Imogene Harris is survived by daughters Temple-Jene Fleming, Gaylyn Harris, grandchildren, and many other relatives.