Charles Sumner “Chuck” Stone, Jr., a former University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill journalism professor and co-founder of the National Association of Black Journalists, died on Sunday. He was 89.
In 1972 he became the Philadelphia Daily News' first Black columnist. According to his brief biography on the NABJ site, "Because of his reputation for integrity, he became a trusted middleman between Philadelphia police and murder suspects, more than 75 of whom 'surrendered' to Stone rather than to the cops.” Stone worked at The Philadelphia Daily News until 1991. Stone, along with 43 others, founded the National Association of Black Journalists in Washington, D.C. in 1975 and served as the organization's first president.
As an editor at Harlem's New York Age, the Washington, D.C. Afro-American, and the Chicago Daily Defender, he was strongly associated with the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. He also served three years as a special assistant and speechwriter for Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. of the 22nd congressional district of New York, chair of the House Education and Labor Committee.
While at the Daily News, Stone began his career in education as a visiting lecturer at Bryn Mawr College’s Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research. In 1982, he was a fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In 1985, he taught journalism at the University of Delaware. Stone taught censorship and magazine writing as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Walter Spearman Professor from 1991 until his retirement in 2005.
Stone authored a number of books, including “Black Political Power in America,” “King Strut” and the children's book, “Squizzy, The Black Squirrel.”
Over his career, Stone received six honorary doctorates and multiple honors, including the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award from The Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation, the National Association of Black Journalists' Lifetime Achievement Award and The Freedom Forum's Al Neuharth Free Spirit Award.
Born in St. Louis and raised in Hartford, Conn., Stone received U.S. Air Corps flight training in Tuskegee, Ala. during World War II before graduating from Wesleyan College in 1948. Stone then earned a master's degree in sociology from the University of Chicago in 1951.
Mayor Michael A. Nutter issued the following statement on the passing of former Philadelphia Daily News journalist Chuck Stone:
“Chuck Stone was a leader, a pioneer and a friend to me and so many others across the country. 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.
“I appreciated him, enjoyed him, respected him and benefitted 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.
“Lastly, as all politics are local, he had a particular impact on the local political scene in his former neighborhood of Wynnefield, as I lived around the corner from him in our neighborhood. 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.”
Stone is survived by children Krishna Stone, Allegra Stone and Charles S. Stone III; grandchild Parade Stone and sisters Madalene Seymour and Irene Gordy.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Chuck Stone Citizen of the World fund at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Journalism or the Mass Communication Foundation of North Carolina, Inc.
The following first appeared on July 26, 2004 inThe Philadelphia Tribune when I covered Stone’s last Philly book tour for “Squizzy, The Black Squirrel.”
As a dozen day-camp children wriggled and squirmed for listening position, noted journalist and professor Chuck Stone sat crossed-legged on the floor and shared with them the story of the day he saw a black squirrel in the park.
Some of the children, who had never witnessed such a sight, pondered the issue.
Stone, who read from his latest book, “Squizzy, The Black Squirrel: A Fabulous Fable of Friendship” (Open Hand Publishing, $16.95), to a group of children Wednesday at the Central Library’s Story Hour Room, told them the squirrel’s color didn’t matter, because it was still a squirrel.
Although this is Stone’s first foray into children’s literature, it is not the first time he has told the story of the black squirrel, a variety of the common eastern gray squirrels that found throughout the Northeast corridor and Canada.
Thirty years ago, his son was coping with prejudice while away at summer camp. Stone used the story of the squirrel in a letter to him and in a subsequent column to emphasized that people’s differences are few.
Stone, who celebrated his 80th birthday this week, has led an amazing life. As a youth, he was a Tuskegee Airman before he settled on a career in journalism. During the early years of the Civil Rights Movement, Stone was editor of three major Black newspapers, an experience that still resonates with him.
“I got my start in the Black press,” said Stone, in 1959. “I don’t forget where I came from.”
In 1975, Stone became the founding president of the National Association of Black Journalists and will be honored for his career achievement during the organization’s annual convention in Washington, D.C.
Stone’s upcoming induction into the NABJ’s Hall of Fame “means more to me than anything. My white colleagues are nice to me, but my Black colleagues respect me,” Stone said. “And that’s the difference.”
It was his career in Philadelphia as an editor and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News that has defined his career. Stone’s columns ran from 1972-1991, and were usually accompanied by a photo of Stone with his distinctive box-shaped haircut.
“Philly was very good to me,” said Stone. “You can’t live anyplace 19 years and not fall in love with it. People were very good to me, and I had a great time at the Daily News.”
Philadelphia also served as home for Stone’s three accomplished children: Krishna, Allegra and Charles III. As a movie director, the younger Stone has achieved popular success with the acclaimed “Drumline.”
“For years you were the son of Chuck Stone, and now I’m the father of Charles Stone III,” the elder Stone joked to his son.
His eldest daughter, Krishna, noted that her father’s sense of curiosity is one of his keys to success. “Let’s just say that he’s in touch with his inner child,” she said after the reading.
Accompanying Stone during his reading was a 15-year-old stuffed toy walrus that still remains unnamed.
“The walrus is a symbol of freedom of speech,” said Stone, who was inspired by the lyric in the children’s classic “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll. Although some of the verse is nonsensical, Stone says that is the point when freedom of speech is an option.
Currently, Stone is the Walter Spearman professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His classes on censorship and magazine writing are student favorites. He was bestowed an excellence-in-teaching award in 1991 during his first year.
“The way I teach, I tell my students, ‘I teach and you learn; you teach and I learn,’” Stone said. “I call it the reciprocity of teaching. We share experiences.”