The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), the oldest and largest nationwide professional group for journalists of color, announced the death of founder Claude Lewis yesterday (March 16).
The Philadelphia Daily News reports that he died at a New Jersey hospital yesterday morning of complications from diabetes, which impacted his vision for nearly a decade.
As noted in both the Daily News and NABJ obituaries, Lewis’ extensive resume includes stints at NBC, The Philadelphia Bulletin, Newsweek and The Philadelphia Inquirer. George Packard, who hired Lewis as a columnist at the Bulletin in 1968, describes him to the Daily News as "passionate man who cared deeply about ending racial discrimination." Lewis wrote his Bulletin column from 1968 until the paper’s 1982 closure, and the job made him Philadelphia’s first regular columnist of color. Many of his columns addressed the Civil Rights Movement and leading racial justice figures including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and James Baldwin.
Lewis was a founding member of both the Philadelphia and National Associations of Black Journalists in 1973 and 1975, respectively. "Founder Claude Lewis was a gentle giant and kind soul whose passion for equality and equal opportunity can be seen in his columns and life’s work," current NABJ president Sarah Glover says in the organization’s statement. "He had a personal impact on the trajectory of many NABJ members, myself included, showing us all the way."
"Claude was an important force in journalism in the 1970s," fellow NABJ founding member Joe Davidson—with whom Lewis launched The National Leader, the first national paper aimed at Black audiences—adds in the NABJ obituary. "[The Leader] was an opportunity to serve the Black community with high quality journalism. I was really proud of the work we did together on that newspaper."
Lewis is survived by his wife Beverly, four children, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.