Raymond Boone Sr., editor of the Richmond Free Press in Virginia and one of the first African American journalists of the “New South,” died on Tuesday after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 76.
Boone founded the Richmond Free Press in 1992 and said he was attracted originally to journalism as a youth when he was barred, under Jim Crow laws, from watching a semi-pro baseball game. He vowed then to publicize that incident and speak to the unfair segregation of African Americans in Southern states. Boone began his newsroom career in 1957 as a reporter with his native Suffolk News-Herald. He once served as the editor of the Richmond African-American and Planet before he started the weekly Richmond Free Press.
The former executive with Afro-American Newspapers in Baltimore, Md., previously taught journalism at Howard University.
Richmond, Va. Mayor Dwight C. Jones remarked that Boone’s passing “really marks an end of a personality who was an integral part of our city.” In his coverage of politics, Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-3rd) said: “Ray never hesitated to hold my feet to the fire on issues important to the Richmond community.”
In 1969 when Richmond annexed 17 square miles of nearby Chesterfield County, many African Americans feared that the move was designed to dilute voting strength in the Black community. Boone and former Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder were principals in pressing for nine separate voting districts of equal number: four White, four Black and one mixed.
Boone in 1969 participated in a program to train 15 young Black men and women for newspaper careers—a profession that was traditionally denied to them during the Jim Crow years and particularly in the historical capital of the Confederacy. At the time of his death, Boone was chairman of the marketing committee for the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Boone is survived by his wife, Jean, son Raymond H. Boone, Jr. and daughter Regina Boone.