Legendary Journalist Chuck Stone Dies at 89

Newspaper editor, professor, Tuskegee Airman and founding president of the National Association of Black Journalists—those are just some of the titles he held during his career. 

Charles Sumner "Chuck" Stone Jr.
Charles Sumner "Chuck" Stone Jr. NABJ.org

“A Firebrand With Unassailable Journalistic Credentials”

Charles Sumner (Chuck) Stone, newspaper editor, professor, columnist, former Tuskegee Airman and founding president of the National Association of Black Journalists — a legend to many — died Sunday at 89, according to news reports.

“Stone died in his sleep early this morning at an assisted-living home in Farmington, N.C., relatives said,” Naveed Ashan reported for the Philadelphia Daily News.

As news spread Sunday morning among NABJ members, many were quick to speak of Stone’s influence on them.

Herbert Lowe, who teaches at Marquette University and a former NABJ president, wrote to colleagues, “Growing up in Camden, N.J., across the river from the home of the Philadelphia Daily News, I remember reading Chuck Stone’s many columns as a high school student and believe they had an impact on my wanting to become a journalist. It wasn’t until years later that I had my first real conversation with him, when I running the second time for president. It was an honor and thrill — and even moreso to see him elected into the NABJ Hall of Fame and to follow his footsteps into academia. He is one of the most important journalists and contributors of American society during the past 100 years.”

Lowe had commissioned a series of profiles of former NABJ presidents. Paul Brock, NABJ’s first executive director, wrote then of Stone:

Long before becoming NABJ’s first president, Chuck Stone was a journalistic legend. He had edited three influential black newspapers — the New York Age, the Washington Afro-American and the Chicago Defender. He had written two nonfiction books, ‘Tell It Like It Is’ and ‘Black Political Power in America,’ and a novel, ‘King Strut.’ He had been Harlem congressman Adam Clayton Powell’s chief administrative assistant and speechwriter. [In “King of the Cats,” a 1993 biography of Powell, author Wil Haygood called Stone “mercurial.”]

“As the now-defunct Washington Star put it in 1969, Stone was a ‘tough-minded militant’ who ‘probably poured forth more angry rhetoric, ruffled more political moderates and simultaneously pacified and frightened more whites than most of (Washington’s) other black leaders.’ He mellowed not one bit after becoming an outspoken columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News in 1971.

“Enough of a firebrand to have worked with Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael, yet with unassailable journalistic credentials, the sharp-tongued but affable Stone was superbly suited to be the first leader of an organization seeking to not only change the way the media would tell black America’s story, but who was going to tell it. . . .”