William Garth, Sr., CEO of the Chicago Citizen Newspaper Group, Inc. [CCNG] and chairman of the Chatham Business Association, died on Friday, Sept. 23 at the age of 79.
A pillar in the community, Garth led the Citizen with a steady hand and worked hard to make the news operation the largest Black-owned ABC audited newspaper in the Midwest. Starting out as an advertising salesman for the Citizen, he ended up owning the newspaper chain in 1980 when he purchased the business from Gus Savage, a six-term Democratic congressman who represented Chicago’s South Side. The sale to Garth included the Chatham Citizen, Southend Citizen and the Chicago Weekend Newspapers. He later added the South Suburban and Hyde Park Citizen Newspapers to his holdings.
The Citizen soon became a business that Garth both nurtured and loved.
He once said, “I’ve been good to the Citizen, because the Citizen has been good to me.”
And, with a current circulation of 112,000 newspapers and a following of 400,000 readers weekly, he clearly did not exaggerate. The Citizen established itself as an important source for community news which focused on the African-American market.
During the early years while the Citizen prospered, Garth remained close to his roots. For years, the Citizen operated from a storefront, always remaining on the South Side even as it expanded.
His son, Darrell Garth, president and publisher of CCNG, expressed thanks for the support he and his family received on behalf of his father.
A dedicated activist in the community, it was important to Garth that Blacks had a seat at the table and were represented on all levels in business. He understood the power of the Black press and remained an active member in the National Newspaper Publishers Association [NNPA]. As the former president of Midwest Region III of the NNPA, he was served as the association’s Region III Advertising Representative. In addition, he became the first Black person to be elected president of the Illinois Press Association [IPA] – the state’s largest newspaper association and office trade organization for Illinois weekly and daily newspapers.
Garth left a lasting impression on the people he met.
“Bill Garth was my hero, my friend and my business partner,” commented Al McFarlane, Founder of Insight News and NNPA Chairman of the Board. “He was part of the pantheon of legendary newspaper owners and civic leaders,” he said
Long-time friend and colleague Patricia O’Flynn Pattillo and publisher of The Milwaukee Community Journal had this to say about Garth.
“Mr. Garth was a Renaissance man. Born in the Jim Crow south and re-birthed in Chicago’s Windy City, he was passionate about justice, equality and upward mobility. His work with the NNPA was unparalleled and he was campaign manager of many including my ascendancy, as the first female president of the NNPA, the Black Press of America,” she said.