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The Sword of The Black Press

Lucius Gantt

By the Florida Courier Staff

Never heard of Lucius Gantt? Here’s a sample of why he’s been considered one of America’s most provocative Black journalists for more than 40 years:

From “Jogging While Black” – I think closet Klansmen that are living by their guns today can easily die by a gunshot tomorrow, especially if they push up on a person of color that has a permit to carry a weapon.

From “Protest Pimps”– The people in Black communities that are hurting and mourning are not impressed by protest clowns that come to town to deliver philippic rants and raves that were choreographed and orchestrated by rednecks, hillbillies, conservatives and closet Klansmen!

From “Bernie’s Busted Revolution”– Turn out the lights, the party is over for Bernie Sanders. The “revolution” has been canceled!

Bernie chose to hire Black campaign workers that would parrot his messages and rubber-stamp his over-the-top proposals.

Sanders did not spend with Black media outlets, didn’t utilize Black political professionals, did not focus on issues of interest to Black voters and the Bernie Sanders campaign didn’t have a clue about how to motivate and influence the masses of Black voters.

The Gantt Report told you for decades that no Democratic candidate can win a rat race, a sack race or a political race without strong Black voter support.

Just a taste

Those are excerpts from just three of Gantt’s most recent columns that he’s written almost every week for 40 years. In every one of 2,000-plus columns, his viewpoint has been pointedly and aggressively pro-Black – something that even some Black readers don’t like.

“I don’t try to write the columns that people like. I write the truth whether people like it or not!” Gantt exclaimed in an exclusive interview with the Florida Courier, Florida’s statewide Black weekly newspaper.

Young writer

Gantt, an Atlanta native born in 1950, began his media career as a 17-year-old production assistant at Atlanta’s WSB-TV, one of the country’s oldest TV stations. At the time, there were no Blacks working on the frontlines of TV news.

Married at age 19 and the father of a child, he was soon hired full-time as a television writer and as a TV researcher at Cox Broadcasting. At the same time, he studied journalism and philosophy at then all-White Georgia State University. Those facts alone are testaments to his tremendous writing skills and work ethic.

Making history

Gantt was also initiated in the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity’s Zeta Theta Chapter at Georgia State in 1969, serving as its founding basileus (president) when the chapter was established. He was first president of an Omega chapter located in a predominantly White college in the South.

He also was the president of the Black Federation Alliance, a Black radical student organization at Georgia State that the Atlanta Police Department and the FBI identified as one of Atlanta’s most dangerous on-campus groups.

“Back then, you had the Black Panthers, the Weathermen, Students for a Democratic Society, and others. One day, Atlanta cops came in class looking for me in connection with a drive-by shooting at our organization’s house. They said, ‘Where’s Lucius Gantt?’ All my White classmates pointed to me.”

Gantt was pulled out of the classroom but was soon released.

D.C., then New York

After graduating from Georgia State in 1972, Gantt was awarded a graduate fellowship to enroll at the Washington Journalism Center. While there, he worked as a U.S. Capitol correspondent, reporter and documentary producer for National Public Radio. His 1973 documentary about gospel music’s impact and contributions to all musical genres was aired on 77 radio stations nationwide at the time.

After graduate school, Gantt accepted a job as a sportswriter for The Associated Press (AP) in New York City, where he covered all major sports – at the age of 23.

“AP New York is the top of the journalism game worldwide,” he explained. “It’s as high as you can go. Any English-speaking newspaper around the world will have an AP New York story in it.

“That’s what separates a world-class journalist from a journalist. A Miami Herald journalist is local. I’m all-world.”

During his AP New York tenure, Gantt wrote three of the top 100 most popular AP stories worldwide. All three were sports stories.

In 1974, he returned home after being transferred to the AP’s Atlanta bureau to cover baseball home run king Henry “Hank” Aaron’s effort to break the home run record held by Babe Ruth.

On to management

In 1975, Gantt decided he wanted to be in news management. He took the job of public affairs director at WFSU-FM, the radio station operated by Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida’s capital. There, he created highly-rated news shows and won a national award, the Ohio State Award for radio documentary production. While at FSU, he also earned a master’s degree in rehabilitation science.

Gantt left radio to become executive producer and host of the “Vibrations” TV show, one of the highest-rated locally produced Black-oriented news shows in the nation. Vibrations stayed on the air for 15 years, a media longevity that’s very unusual for local programming.

Everywhere in Tallahassee

Wherever media was in the Tallahassee area, Gantt was there. He wrote columns for the Tallahassee Democrat daily newspaper, the Flambeau, FSU’s school newspaper, and even did occasional play-by-play announcements for Florida A&M University basketball.

It was his writing style at the Democrat that got him into trouble.

“Every politician read the Tallahassee Democrat every day. It’s the daily newspaper of the state capital. They pulled me aside and said ‘Lucius, you are going too hard. We have to do business with these politicians.’ But I refused to quit writing the way I write. I had to tell the truth.”

Gantt said that a White Republican from South Florida pulled him aside and told him to consider writing his own column and mailing it to subscribers.

“I asked him what I should name it, and he said, ‘The Gantt Report.’ That was similar to ‘The Kiplinger Report,’ a newsletter that was very popular at the time. I took his advice.”

First subscriber

“The Gantt Report started out as a newsletter, then it became a tabloid, before he told me that I should quit trying to be a publisher and just write the column and send it out. Garth Reeves, the publisher of the Miami Times (Florida’s oldest Black-owned newspaper), was the first newspaper owner to subscribe and publish the column in his newspaper. And at the beginning, even White newspapers published The Gantt Report.”

In 1980, Gantt started his own media business, All World Consultants. He financed its startup with the proceeds from a wrongful termination and racial discrimination lawsuit he settled with FSU. The Gantt Report started soon thereafter.

Serious injury

For 20 years, All World was riding high. Gantt served as media consultant for the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators while lobbying Florida government for doctors and hospitals. He also produced and hosted a statewide TV show in Florida called “View from the Top.”

Things changed in 2000. He was in a bad car crash that cause a traumatic brain injury. He stayed out of the public arena for three years to rehabilitate himself and fully recover.

Determined to walk

“I was determined not to go back to the state Capitol in a wheelchair,” he remembered. “Meanwhile, the Black lobbyists I train stole my clients by telling them ‘Lucius had a heart attack.’ It was a lie.

“And none of my former clients, including none of the Black legislators or Black members of Congress, contacted me doing that whole three-year period. But you know who did? Jeb Bush, who was governor at the time.”

Gantt maintains that Jeb Bush was the best governor for Black-owned businesses.

“Jeb took things personally,” Gantt says. “He did more than (former Florida governors) Lawton Chiles, Rueben Askew, Charlie Crist, all those governors Black people love to love.

“Instead of a set-aside, Jeb picked up the phone and told every Florida agency head, ‘Your evaluation is going to be based on how much business you do with Black businesses.’ That was enough. And every agency started advertising in Black newspapers. I know, because All World was handling the money.”

Doing the time Gantt was trying to recover from the car accident, he kept writing. His first book was a collection of Gantt Reports entitled, “I Talked About the Beast.”

Two other books followed, including his latest entitled, “Beast Too: Dead Man Writing.”

Firsts and awards

The Gantt Report is one of the most widely read opinion columns in America. Excerpts from The Gantt Report are on display in the National Freedom Museum’s Freedom of Speech section.

Gantt was one of only two people elected to serve as president of the Southeastern Black Publishers Association that didn’t actually own a newspaper.

He was nominated for the position by Charles W. Cherry, Sr., the founder of the Daytona Times and the Florida Courier. Support also came from Levi Henry of the Westside Gazette, Garth Reeves of the Miami Time and Ike Williams – all Black newspaper heroes and publishers based in Florida.

Gantt has received ADDY Awards for advertising excellence, the Capitol Outlook Newspaper Community Service Award, a FAMU Small Business of the Year award, a FSU Black Student Union Award and other accolades.

He continues to write columns, does advertising and media work and facilitates financial and commodity trades for national and international clients though his commodities company, All World Financial.

‘The voice’

The Gantt Report has been” the voice of the voiceless,” he believes.

“I say things that people in the community want to say, but for whatever reason they can’t or won’t say. I know I can write. I’ve always had that talent. It’s a good thing I can share it with my people,” he concluded.

“I could have stayed at WSB, AP, FSU, if I had done as most Black people do – which is turn their back on their community. When the White man says, ‘Fire the Black man,’ they don’t hesitate. I could never do that stuff.”

What’s the inspiration?

Gantt listens to Black people.

“Ninety percent of The Gantt Report is what I hear Black people say on the train or at the bus stop or the barbershop. I consider the rest of the columnists as ‘scholars.’ I got the education, but I ain’t trying to write like no scholar.

“I felt like I had a big responsibility. I had a talent. I knew how to make money. I’m just following my calling. I’m just living out my destiny.

“The thing I’m most proud of is never changing. I didn’t wake up one morning saying, ‘I’m mad at the world. Let me write something hard in The Gantt Report.’ I’ve been hard since I was 17. Ain’t no change. The truth is the truth. How can you change the truth?

“The Gantt Report is No. 1 in the Florida prisons. Don’t ask me; ask the prison guards.”

Religious scholar

Gantt uses his formal training in philosophy on a regular basis in The Gantt Report, which occasionally refers to biblical scriptures.

“I’ve studied Islam, Santeria, Yoruba, Confucianism, Baha’i, Christianity, all of that. But some of my most popular columns involve ‘the cat,’ ‘the dog, and ‘the snake,’ he grinned.

How did it come about?

“I heard a guy talk about ‘hitting the cat’ and I thought he was talking about a real feline,” Gantt laughed. “I didn’t know he was talking about hitting the pussycat, as I say for decent folks.

“People can use their imagination. It’s just a fun thing. I don’t want to talk about politics or economics every week. It’s my attempt to make readers smile sometime. ‘The cat’ was a comedic column that folks have held onto.”

Gantt says he has elderly fans.

“I know some 90-year-old residents in Florida. I tell them, ‘I’ll send you some Gantt Reports. They say, ‘Don’t send it to me. Just send me something about the cat.’ Senior citizens love the cat columns, because they know what it’s all about.

“They know that cat is crazy. That cat can’t be controlled. That cat ain’t going to obey you. And some of them are cats,” he laughed again.

‘Tremendous career’

Gantt is very proud of his life of writing.

“I’ve had a tremendous career. I worked at the top. I’m a real journalist, not a lawyer pretending to be a journalist. When I covered the Capitol, John Conyers and Andy Young were in Congress. I covered baseball when Willie Mays was playing.

“I was before all those people you love now…Craig Melvin, Yamiche Alcindor…I’m old-school. But I’m still relevant today. And that’s amazing.”

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