Richmond Free Press bids farewell to founder and publisher

Marlene Jones | 6/10/2014, 2:23 p.m.
“The dapper founding editor/publisher of the Richmond Fress Press refused to be intimidated during his 22 years at the helm ...
The late Raymond H. Boone

The Richmond Fress Press fittingly used its front page last week to bid farewell to its founder, editor and publisher, Raymond H. Boone.

“The dapper founding editor/publisher of the Richmond Fress Press refused to be intimidated during his 22 years at the helm — seeing himself as continuing the legacy of his journalism hero, John Mitchell, Jr., the ‘fighting editor’ of the Richmond Planet who carried pistols and dared white supremacists to lynch him for writing about the injustices of his day,” the paper reported.

Boone, died “peacefully in his sleep” on June 3 at the age of 76. He succumbed to pancreatic cancer.

According to the Free Press, Boone was a former associate professor of journalism at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he taught for nearly nine years before starting the Free Press in 1992.

Black Enterprise magazine once hailed his brand of journalism as a model for the survival of black newspapers in America.

Howard University noted last week that Boone was revered as a tough educator who challenged his students, emphasizing excellence and ethics.

“By pushing beyond the limits, he used the pen to tear down vestiges of white supremacy, to open doors for the left out, and he fearlessly confronted injustices and racism wherever they raised their ugly heads,” said Hazel Trice Edney, president of the Capital Press Club, who teaches journalism at Howard and was part of Boone’s ‘boot camp’ at the Free Press. “He dedicated his life to this cause.”

Prior to joining the Howard faculty, Boone was editor and vice president of the Baltimore-based Afro-American Newspaper Group. Time Magazine credited him with bringing “sophistication and verve” to the black press.

The Free Press noted that Boone was involved in a variety of crusades, including the paper’s “Vote with your dollars” campaign, encouraging readers to spend their hard-earned money with companies that catered to their needs. He also strongly encouraged elected leaders, as well as local and state governments to do more business with black-owned firms.

“He tried to fight injustice wherever he saw it,” his wife, Jean Patterson Boone, told the Style Weekly.

Rep. Robert Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-3rd District), echoed similar comments.

“The Richmond Free Press ... has been an important source of news and information for the Richmond community, often covering issues and stories left unnoticed by larger media organizations,” said Scott in a statement.

“While he was my friend, Ray was always a newsman first and never hesitated to hold my feet to the fire on issues important to the Richmond community.

“I enjoyed our many interviews and editorial board meetings and I will miss talking politics and policy with him. I know his legacy will endure through the countless lives he has touched and will continue to touch through the Richmond Free Press.”

Jack J. Green, founder and publisher of The VOICE, said he always considered Boone a friend and a competitor.

“He will be missed,” said Green.

A wake in honor of Boone was held Monday at St. Philips Episcopal Church in Richmond’s North Side and final tributes took place Tuesday at new Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Chesterfield County.

In addition to his wife, Boone leaves behind a daughter, son, grandson, and a slew of relatives and friends to cherish his memory.

The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be made to the VCU Massey Development Office, P.O. Box 980214, Richmond, Va. 23298.