Business

Hall of Famer: Charles Cherry Sr.

The Florida Courier’s founder and first publisher is recognized by the Florida newspaper trade organization for his service to the newspaper industry, Black Floridians, and the state of Florida.

Special to the NNPA from The Florida Courier

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Florida Courier and Daytona Times founder Charles W. Cherry, Sr., will be inducted posthumously into the Florida Press Association’s Hall of Fame during the organization’s annual convention in Miami next week.

The Florida Press Association (FPA) is the state’s largest newspaper trade industry group. It was founded in 1879 as a nonprofit corporation to protect the freedoms and advance the professional standards of the press of Florida. It includes the entire daily and most of the weekly newspapers in the state in its membership.

The Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who have rendered outstanding service in the field of newspaper journalism in Florida over the past 130 years.

Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame nominees are eligible for selection normally no earlier than the third year following their retirement or death. No more than one nominee per year can be selected for admission to the Florida Hall of Fame.

One of a few
Cherry, Sr. becomes the 45th inductee in the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame.

“We are honored that Charles W. Cherry, Sr. will be joining the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame. The nominating committee was unanimous in its selection of Mr. Cherry and felt that his contributions to the industry, to his community and to the state of Florida made his selection an easy choice,” said Dean Ridings, FPA president and CEO.

Cherry becomes only the second Black newspaper owner – after the late Eric Simpson, longtime publisher of Jacksonville’s Florida Star weekly newspaper – to be so honored. Simpson was inducted in 2003.

Past inductees include Al Neuharth, former president and CEO of the Gannett Company and founder of USA Today; Alvah Chapman, former CEO of the Knight Ridder newspaper group, which owned the Miami Herald daily newspaper; and Nelson Poynter, editor and publisher of the St. Petersburg Times and the namesake of the Poynter Center journalism institute in St. Petersburg.

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Activist, entrepreneur
Charles W. Cherry, Sr.’s life was multi-faceted. The centerpiece: a determination to see equal rights for all people, particularly in Daytona Beach and the state of Florida.

A decorated Korean Conflict veteran, he served as a Bethune-Cookman College educator and its business manager, a Realtor, a newspaper and radio station owner, and four full terms as a Daytona Beach city commissioner.

As one of the state’s few African-American bail bondsman, he worked to get civil rights protestors – including his Morehouse College schoolmate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – released from Florida jails in the 1960s.

Amid all these endeavors, he also served several terms as president of the Volusia County-Daytona Beach Branch of the NAACP, as president of the Florida State Conference of NAACP Branches, and as a member of the National Board of the NAACP.

A Black voice
Cherry, Sr. began his newspaper career when he launched Daytona Beach’s Westside Rapper in 1969 “to have our own Black voice.” The Daytona Times succeeded the Westside Rapper in 1978.

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“He was an avid reader of great Black newspapers like the Chicago Defender and the Pittsburgh Courier,” said Julia T. Cherry, Cherry, Sr.’s wife of 52 years. She spoke on behalf of the Cherry family. “He knew that Black people in Daytona Beach couldn’t get those papers. So he modeled the Daytona Times after them and went into the newspaper business.”

In 1989, Cherry, Sr. went on to establish the Florida Courier, which was originally circulated only in the Fort Pierce and Vero Beach areas. That same year, the Cherry family purchased WPUL-AM 1590, a Daytona Beach-area radio station.

Largest media group
In 2001, the Cherry family’s media business expanded to become Tama Broadcasting, Inc., then Florida’s largest privately-owned African-American media group, which owned or operated 11 radio stations across three states.

Cherry, Sr. died in 2004; Julia Cherry took over the family businesses as board chairwoman and senior consultant. In 2006, the family, led by Julia Cherry, relaunched the Florida Courier as a statewide newspaper (audited circulation: 90,000 weekly).  It now serves Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Orange, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Volusia and Duval counties.

“Given all he was involved in, I was amazed that he found time to do everything he did,” said Charles W. Cherry II, who succeeded his father as publisher of the Daytona Times and the Florida Courier. “The family has done the best we can to continue his legacy of service to Florida, while blazing our own trail at the same time.”

Multiple honors
The FPA induction is the third Hall of Fame honor Cherry, Sr. has received for his service in Black journalism. He was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists’ Region 4 Hall of Fame in 2004 and the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s Gallery of Distinguished Black Publishers in 2011.

Cherry Sr.’s picture will be prominently and permanently displayed in the Florida Press Center in Tallahassee.

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