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Iconic Richmond Free Press Leader Ray Boone Passes
6/11/2014 4:36:01 PM

Ray Boone
By Hakim Abdul-Ali

As surely as I type this article the saga of death approaches the doorsteps of many “hue-mans” without prejudice. From heroes to zeroes and from saints to sinners, death summons everyone sooner or later.

It’s an unmistakable part of the living experience. And when death takes a stellar soul in your family, community, nation or the world, you have to take a pause and remember that “hue-man” for his or her contribution(s).

Such was news that hit me on Sunday night when in a telephone conversation with much-admired journalist, lecturer and author, A. Peter Bailey, he announced that a man he had great reverence for had passed in Richmond. I could tell that this man meant a lot to him.

Mr. Bailey said the man was Mr. Ray Boone, the radiant publisher of the Richmond Free Press, and he began to tell me with heartfelt emotions about what a giant of a man Mr. Boone was in his heart and mind. The respect Mr. Bailey had for Mr. Boone allowed me to reflect on how precious the great ones in our lives appear to be with us for a while and then—they’re gone.

Being a journalist writing for the Charleston Chronicle, I, of course, knew of Mr. Boone, because he was a highly praised and highly respected journalist, editor and publisher. Little known fact about Mr. Boone was that he was an Afro-Japanese American. His father was Tsujiro Miyazaki and Leathia Boone, a woman of Native American and African ancestry.

I became transfixed with Mr. Bailey’s considerate admiration for Mr. Boone, who in 1992 had given him his first job as a featured regular columnist the Richmond Free Press, which he wrote for about two years. Listening to Mr. Bailey talk in such glowing terms of his respect and admiration for this fearless and bold journalist made me think of how few “true” great valiant leaders there are left in the real Black literary world.

Ray Boone, 76, was definitely one of the legendary icons in this industry because he had vision and courage to tell the truth as it needed to be told, printed and embosomed on the minds and soul of the greater Black Richmond community. Mr. Boone was aware of his local surroundings and the happenings that affected the Black community. He cared about his constituents.

That’s a very important point to remember as Mr. Bailey made sure that I understood clearly how resolute Mr. Boone was in his commitment in relaying pertinent information to, about and for Richmond’s Black soul folk. Mr. Bailey related that Mr. Boone made an emphasis to have the Free Press’ stories and articles deal with what was really, really happening in the greater Richmond area.

“In many ways, Brother Hakim, Ray Boone is just like and reminds me of Mr. (Jim) French, who you work for. Those guys were a different breed of publishers and are committed to printing germane stories that tell what “really” goes on in the Black community. You don’t see publishers doing that too much anymore,” said Mr. Bailey. “I have so much respect for those two gentlemen because they were and are committed to putting the real news before the people. They didn’t sugar foot what the Black community needed to and should know.”

I was told by Mr. Bailey that Mr. Lionel Barrow, who was head of Howard University’s School of Journalism and for a while head of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) once wrote in a 1997 organizational celebration booklet what he thought were the responsibilities of the Black Press.

They are:

• It should be the watch dog for the Black community.

• It should answer any attacks against the Black community.

• It should present a different positive viewpoint of the Black community, even if they differed from those of White liberals.

• It should serve as a vehicle to preserve Black culture.

As Mr. Bailey sees it, Mr. Boone was fulfilled all of those qualifications and then some. Mr. Bailey also felt that Mr. Boone was a genius in the field of journalism because he was committed to the (African-American) historical old time journalistic cause of telling it like factually it was, a fact that many readers don’t get today in what is presented to them as so-called news.

Mr. French, 87, “The Charleston Chronicle’s” leader for more than forty years, said that Mr. Boone was one of a kind. “He stood alone among the crop of young publishers and journalists, even in the past. We would, over the years at NNPA meetings, get together and share ideas and thoughts about how to make our news mediums better. I treasured his advice and insight because he had a pulse on what’s was going on.

“He was a superb journalist, a quality publisher and close and dear friend, who I knew made sense in what he was talking about and trying to do. No object intelligent reader could or would deny that. He knew what he was doing and he knew how to inform and lead people by example. Ray Boone will sorely and surely missed by all, especially those in the Richmond area. I know that I will. He was a great man.”

On behalf of “The Charleston Chronicle,” I offer my formal respect to the Boone family, the staff of “The Richmond Free Press” and the greater Richmond African-American community, we share your loss. Mr. Ray Boone, the publishing icon and journalistic leader, that was will be missed.

Respectfully, “The Chronicle” says rest in peace. You left a legacy to be proud of. For today and always, that’s, “As I See It.”

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