Charles "Chuck" Stone, Jr.
Chuck Stone - A titan of Black journalism
The Philadelphia Tribune
Charles “Chuck” Stone was a legendary journalist and founder of the National Association of Black Journalists.
He died on Sunday, April 6, 2014 at an assisted living facility in North Carolina. He was 89.
Stone was a writer and editor at influential Black publications in New York, Washington and Chicago through the early 1960s, using his writing to urge the Kennedy administration to advance the cause of civil rights. Subsequently, he served as an adviser to U.S. Rep. Adam Clayton Powell of New York.
His reputation grew after he was hired as the first Black columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, where he worked as a columnist and editor from 1972 to 1991. Stone was known for being outspoken on discrimination, police brutality and racism.
Dozens of suspects turned themselves into Stone before the authorities because of his efforts to hold the criminal justice system accountable. He was also credited with helping to negotiate the release of six guards at a Pennsylvania prison who were held hostage by inmates in 1981.
Stone also was the inaugural host of the PBS program “Black Perspectives On The News.” Stone was nominated for the prestigious Pulitzer Prize multiple times. He later was inducted into NABJ’s Hall of Fame, and was presented the Society of Professional Journalists’ Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award.
Mayor Michael Nutter referred to Stone as a leader, a pioneer and a friend.
“He wrote about those who were often ‘written off’ in life, neglected or given no chance at success. He spoke truth to power and didn’t care who was offended or upset by his eloquence or targeted use of the English language,” Nutter said. “I appreciated him, enjoyed him, respected him and benefited from his journalistic integrity, his keen eye in separating right from wrong and his commitment to the empowerment of people of all nationalities. He was particularly focused and aggressive in his support of Black empowerment, but made all people of any ethnic group feel valued and appreciated.”
Nutter highlighted Stone’s impact on the local political scene in his former neighborhood of Wynnefield.
“Chuck Stone influenced politics and community engagement at the local, state and national level, and all of us will feel the loss of his voice and words, but none of us will ever forget him. I offer my deepest sympathies to his family on behalf of the city of Philadelphia and all who knew and respected him,” Nutter said.
Congressman Chaka Fattah said Stone was a writer and educator of influence and impact.
“He was a mentor to hundreds of journalists who wanted to emulate his passion and his style. He inspired young reporters to hone their craft and own their story,” Fattah said. “Respected by his readers and the community, Chuck Stone had a tremendous career as a writer in the newsroom and a professor in the classroom. His legacy lives on through the creative penmanship of hundreds of journalists he mentored both in and out of the newsroom.”
Tyree Johnson, publisher of the Westside Weekly, was a longtime friend and colleague of Stone. The two men worked together at the Philadelphia Daily News back in the early ’70s and had a close relationship.
“One thing about Chuck, you were either his best friend or his worst enemy, but we always had a good relationship. I know that if I ever needed him, he would be there for me. He was that kind of guy,” Johnson said. “I’m going to miss him. He was a legend and he will be remembered for a long time.”
Johnson noted that Stone didn’t hesitate to tell him when he liked or didn’t like his stories.
“He was also kind of controversial. If he didn’t like you, he would definitely write about you and really go after you. He was like a hound dog when it came to that type of thing. When he felt someone was doing something wrong, he almost took it personally,” Johnson said.
Temple University journalism professor Linn Washington was another former newsroom colleague of Stone’s. The two men were members of the Third World Caucus, an organization of Daily News minority staff members.
“He was always very helpful in what we were doing. We were doing two things — we were trying to improve the coverage of non-whites in the Daily News and to increase promotional and employment opportunities for non-whites,” Washington said. “Chuck always stood up for the African-American community, but under the constructs that he was standing up for justice and fairness — something that is in short supply today. A lot of the attention is focused on how he was able to have people surrender to him but they surrendered to him because he was always at the forefront of pointing out the abuses that took place regularly in the police department.”
Sheila Simmons was a business reporter at the Daily News during the time when Stone was a columnist. Stone was of the reasons why she decided to come to Philadelphia to work at the Daily News.
“I was particularly enamored by Chuck Stone and Linda Wright Moore because they were African Americans who had a very strong, a very colorful and a very forceful voice,” Simmons said. “He was always inspirational and a very motivational force for young African-American reporters. He used to tell me all the time ‘to thine own self be true.’”
Many who helped launch the NABJ credited Stone as the driving force behind of its founding said the association’s current president Bob Butler.
“Chuck chaired the first meeting and became the first president. He provided the rudder that steered NABJ at a time when being a member was not always easy. Some employers back then told members to choose between their jobs and NABJ,” Butler said. “Our members now excel in all segments of the news media as columnists, anchors, reporters, producers, photographers and, most importantly, managers. There is still a lack of diversity in newsroom management, but what does exist is because of Chuck and the other founders of NABJ.”
Stone served as president of what was then the Association of Black Journalists in Philadelphia, now known as the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, a forerunner for NABJ.
“The foundation Chuck provided for Black journalists to work in the industry is unmatched,” said PABJ President Johann Calhoun. “Many of us today would not be working if not for the vision and tenacity from the likes of Chuck Stone. The times I was fortunate to talk with him, I walked away inspired and motivated. He truly cared about the future of journalism and making sure Black folk had a place in it.”
NABJ Founder and Washington Post reporter Joe Davidson recalled Stone from the organization’s early days.
“He was always on point during those eventful meetings and was absolutely essential to the birth of what has become an amazing organization,” Davidson said. “Later, some of us had differences with Chuck, but there is no doubt about the vital role he played in NABJ. He was a giant in many ways. His death makes me very sad, yet appreciate him all the more. NABJ owes him a lot.”
Stone was born on July 21, 1924. After serving as a Tuskegee Airman in World War II, he graduated from Wesleyan University in 1948 and earned his master’s degree from the University of Chicago. Stone taught in many of the cities where he worked and lived. He taught at Columbia College, Bryn Mawr College and the University of Delaware. After leaving daily journalism, he served as the Walter Spearman professor in University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication from 1999 to 2005.
He is survived by his children Krishna Stone, Allegra Stone and Charles S. Stone III; grandchild Parade Stone and sisters Madalene Seymour and Irene Gordy.
His family asks that donations