The ceremony proved almost as impressive as the honoree.
Drummers — on both sides of the aisle — led family members of the late Lenora “Doll” Carter into the historic Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel at Howard University in D.C. as members of the National Newspaper Publishers Association enshrined the former Houston Forward Times publisher and community leader into its Hall of Fame.
The ceremony, which occurred as the Black Press celebrates 190 years since the founding of Freedom’s Journal, included touching tributes from colleagues and fellow publishers, NNPA Foundation Board members, Carter’s daughter Karen Carter-Richards, and a stirring solo performance by Carter-Richards’ own daughter, Chelsea Lenora White, who belted out an emotional rendition of the classic “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).”
“Doll and I were the last of the Mohicans,” said Chicago Crusader Publisher Dorothy Leavell of her close friend Carter, who died in 2010. “She loved beautiful things and she loved the Black Press.”
Leavell reminisced about how Carter worked tirelessly keeping the books for the NNPA while at times putting the Black Press organization ahead of her beloved Forward Times.
“In that day,” Leavell said. “It was twice as hard for women and Doll Carter stood the test of time,” she said.
Mollie Belt, another close friend and publisher and CEO of the Dallas Examiner, said she met Carter in 1986 and Carter freely opened her arms to Belt.
“I was a new publisher and I knew that she loved the Black Press. Not by words, but by action,” Belt said. “She made sure that we knew all of the publishers, the history of the association and she made sure that we all were so proud,” she said.
Hall of Fame Enshrinement Chair Jackie Hampton said she was simply proud to have known Carter.
“I’m thankful that I got to know her in a very special way,” Hampton said.
Many who attended the ceremony called it the most touching they’ve witnessed.
The Hall of Fame and the Black Press Archives have been housed at Howard University’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center since 1973. It has a stunning gallery of publishers and historic newspapers, including pioneers John B. Russwurm and Samuel Cornish, the founders of Freedom’s Journal; Frederick Douglass; Adam Clayton Powell Jr.; Carlton Goodlett of the Sun-Reporter; John H. Murphy Sr. of the Baltimore Afro-American; Robert S. Abbott of the Chicago Defender; C.B. Powell of the New York Amsterdam News; Willie Monroe Trotter of the Boston Guardian; Frank L. Stanley of the Louisville Defender; Cloves Campbell Sr. of the Arizona Informant; Calvin W. Rolark of The Washington Informer and many others.
Among the many highlights of the ceremony for Carter, a touching video tribute that featured colleagues, workmates and family members recalling her love for community and her newspaper.
“We hold the NNPA near and dear just like my mom did,” a tearful Carter-Richards said, with her two daughters and son standing at her side as she accepted the induction plaque bestowed by NNPA Foundation Chair Al McFarland, NNPA Chair Denise Rolark Barnes and NNPA President Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.
“Lenora ‘Doll’ Carter was high-class,” Rolark-Barnes said. “But she knew how to deal with regular people.”
Following the formal induction, the drummers led the processing of family members and visitors to the Black Press Archives where visitors can find a comprehensive research resource that includes complete microfilm files of black newspapers and records of black editors, publishers and journalists.
The archives represent a vital and constructive element of the Research Center’s program to collect, preserve and interpret black history and culture.
While viewing the archives, Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee arrived to offer her appreciation for Carter.
“We’ve been under siege in Washington,” Jackson Lee said. “The nation is under siege but I wanted to step forward in this historic place to give honor where honor is due. Even surviving and living and being the predominate news for our community … it’s obvious that Doll Carter made that her life with [husband] Julius.”
Jackson Lee talked passionately how Carter lifted the spirit of others and demanded respect for all.
“She walked with kings and queens but she still was able to walk around Houston and made sure that no one looked at her differently,” she said.