Gerald M. Boyd: The first Black managing editor of the New York Times, Boyd was instrumental in coverage that won the newspaper three Pulitzers: for articles about the first World Trade Center bombing, for a series on children of poverty, and for a series on race relations in the United States. It was a lifelong dream of Boyd to be editor of the Times, but that dream was cut short when he was forced to resign, along with editor Howell Raines, after instances of fabrication and plagiarism by a young reporter, Jayson Blair, were discovered. Boyd died in November after a battle with lung cancer. He was 56.
Ed Bradley: The first Black White House correspondent for CBS News, Bradley also broke the color barrier as the first Black correspondent for “60 Minutes,” where he spent the past 25 years. His news pieces ranged from interviews with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh to basketball and golf icons Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. Throughout his almost 40-year journalism career, Bradley won 19 Emmy awards and was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award last year by the National Association of Black Journalists. Bradley died in November. He was 65.
Dr. William O. Bright: A longtime professor of linguistics at UCLA, Bright studied American Indian languages and worked to preserve the language of California’s Karuk tribe. He was the author of more than 200 books, articles and reviews and served as editor of Language, the journal of the Linguistic Society of America. Bright retired from UCLA in 1988 after 29 years of teaching. He died on Oct. 15 at the age of 78.
Dr. Clinton Bristow: The president of Alcorn State University in Mississippi, Bristow was also president of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. He has been credited for doubling the percentage of Alcorn students attending graduate/professional school, improving retention and establishing a faculty research incentive program to enhance research in the life sciences. Before becoming president of Alcorn State, Bristow served as president of the Chicago Board of Education, dean of the College of Business at Chicago State University and vice president at Olive-Harvey College in Chicago. Bristow died in August. He was 57 years old.
Octavia Butler: Widely considered the first and best Black female science fiction writer, Butler became the first such writer to earn a “genius” grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (1995). Her book, Parable of the Talents, won the 2000 Nebula award, science fiction’s highest prize. In all, she produced about a dozen books, essays and short stories. Butler died in February. She was 58 years old.
Bebe Moore Campbell: A best-selling author, Campbell often set her novels in Los Angeles covering race relations, relationships and mental illness. Some of Campbell’s most popular books include Brothers and Sisters and Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine, for which she received an NAACP Image Award for Literature. Her journalistic articles appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and Ebony magazine. Campbell died in November. She was 56 years old.
Dr. Mayme Clayton: The Los Angeles librarian amassed a valuable and eclectic collection of Black history, including a signed copy of the first book published by a Black person: Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral of 1773. Clayton even obtained the first copy of Ebony, Vol. 1, No. 1, at a garage sale. She bought the inaugural edition for a dime, and it was reported that even publisher John H. Johnson himself couldn’t persuade her to part with it, as he hadn’t kept a copy for himself. A week before Clayton died, the Mayme A. Clayton Library Museum & Cultural Center opened in Culver City, Calif. She became assistant librarian at the University of Southern California in 1954 and later a library assistant at UCLA’s law library, where she stayed 15 years. Clayton died Oct. 13. She was 83 years old.
Yen Ngoc Do: Founder and publisher of the Nguoi Viet Daily News, the longest-running Vietnamese newspaper in the country, Do used his journalism experience to help his countrymen start a new life in America. Twenty-five years ago, he began writing and publishing a four-page weekly leaflet in his native language. It featured such how-to’s as applying for a driver’s license, and essentially taught newcomers about complexities nonexistent in Vietnam. He died on Aug. 17. He was 65 years old.
Earl Hayes: Described as “a tireless advocate for the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities, an avid boater and a good friend to many,” Hayes was senior program manager for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Earlier this year, William “Bud” Blakey wrote in a tribute to him “those who knew Earl loved his dry sense of humor, warm friendship and ever-ready smile, as well as his deep commitment to expanding educational opportunities for African-American youth and enhancing HBCUs.” Hayes died in August.
Coretta Scott King: “Mrs. King kept the legacy of her husband, Morehouse alumnus Martin Luther King Jr. alive through her commitment to the ideals of non-violence, peace and social justice,” said Dr. Walter E. Massey, president of Morehouse College, upon her death earlier this year. Along with her husband, King became an icon of the civil rights movement. She died in January at the age of 78.
Betty Friedan: This “philosopher of modern-day feminism” penned The Feminine Mystique, which became a best seller in 1963, and many say changed women’s lives. Friedan was quoted as saying: “A woman has got to be able to say, and not feel guilty, ‘Who am I, and what do I want out of life?’ She musn’t feel selfish and neurotic if she wants goals of her own, outside of husband and children.” Friedan died in February. She was 85 years old.
Dr. Nellie McKay: The distinguished literature professor at the University of Wisconsin and co-editor, along with Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., of the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, died in January at the age of 75, following a long battle with cancer.
Enolia P. McMillan: A Baltimore educator, she was the first female president of the NAACP, serving from 1984-1990. She helped orchestrate the civil rights organization’s move from New York to Baltimore. As national president, she spoke out against the Reagan administration’s policies, which she said harmed the organization’s efforts in housing, education and employment and business. Also a past president of the Maryland State Colored Teachers’ Association, McMillan died Oct. 24. She was 102.
2nd Lt. Emily Perez: She is just one of many U.S. soldiers who died this year during the war on terrorism, but Perez was the first woman graduate of West Point killed in Iraq. According to reports, she was a star scholar and talented sprinter who became interested in attending the military school after she was invited to an academic workshop her junior year in high school. Perez died in September. She was 23 years old.
Gordon Parks: He was the first Black American photojournalist for Life magazine and the first leading Black filmmaker, with such movies as “The Learning Tree” and “Shaft.” Parks died in March at the age of 95.
Lou Rawls: The Grammy-award winning baritone was also known as the face and founder of the annual “Parade of Stars” telethon that has raised millions of dollars for the United Negro College Fund over the years. Rawls died in January. He was 72 years old.
Dr. Roland T. Smoot: He was the first Black faculty member of the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine. He also served as the first Black president of MedChi, a Maryland medical society with more than 6,000 members. Remembered as a mentor for minority medical students, he became the first Black physician given admitting privileges at Johns Hopkins in 1966. He became a part-time instructor in the School of Medicine and was named assistant professor in 1974. He retired from practicing medicine in 1991, but continued to conduct breast cancer research. Smoot died in January. He was 78 years old.
Dr. Mary L. Stone: One of the first Black teachers in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, she was most notably the creator of the Black College Spring Tour. It was her mission to send high school juniors to the South. A graduate of South Carolina State University, she found that her students held many misconceptions about Black colleges, so she decided to take her students to visit the HBCUs they had only heard and read about. Since its inception 25 years ago, approximately 2,000 students have participated in the Black College tour. Stone died in November. She was 86 years old.
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