Raymond H. Boone Sr., a towering figure in the Black Press and founder, editor and publisher of the influential Richmond Free Press has died. He was 76.

Boone died June 3 at his home after a months-long battle with pancreatic cancer, his family told the media.

The Suffolk, Va. native obtained a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University and a master’s degree in political science from Howard University, where he later taught journalism for nine years.

The majority of Boone’s career was spent in the Black Press, and Time magazine once credited him with bringing “sophistication and verve” to that cadre.

Before joining Howard’s faculty, Boone did a stint as editor and vice president of the Baltimore-based Afro-American Newspaper Group. As a correspondent for the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a consortium of Black-owned newspapers, Boone filed reports from Germany, Finland, the former Soviet Union, Israel and Cuba. According to his bio, he also was a reporter for the Norfolk Journal and Guide, and amassed daily reporting experience with the Massachusetts Quincy Patriot-Ledger and the Suffolk News-Herald.

Boone founded the Free Press in 1992, and for the next 22 years, it amassed many accolades for its crusading, un-cowed coverage of issues affecting the African-American community and for its shaping of political discourse in Richmond. Black Enterprise magazine once hailed Boone’s brand of journalism as a model for the survival of Black newspapers in America, according to the newspaper’s website.

For example, last year the newspaper made headlines when Boone announced it would no longer use the name “Redskins” to refer to Washington, D.C.’s professional football team, saying the name was “racist.”

“We decided that because it is an insulting name, it is an outrageous name and as a city we should not become acclimated to the outrageous,” Boone said at the time.

While serving as a Pulitzer Prize juror on two separate occasions, his bio added, he spearheaded a successful effort that resulted in the placement of African-Americans and women on the Pulitzer Board at Columbia University.

Such was his influence that in 1998, Richmond Magazine named him to its list of “100 Power Players” in Central Virginia. And in 1999, Style Magazine, in partnership with the Valentine Museum, named Boone among Richmond’s “Movers and Shapers” of the 20th century.

In 2000, Boone was inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame at Virginia Commonwealth University, and in 2006, he was the recipient of the Oliver W. Hill Freedom Fighter Award, the Virginia NAACP’s highest honor; among many other honors.

Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones, a neighbor, called Boone a “crusader” and “a personality who was an integral part of our city.”

“His stalwart support for the black community, for economic justice and fairness paved the way for change in so many ways,” Jones said in a statement. “Week after week, he offered many a window into the world of black Richmond. He provided visibility for people who might otherwise be invisible to some. He voiced concerns and desires in ways that might not otherwise have gotten expressed.

“It’s clear to me that Ray Boone was a giant of a personality that won’t soon be forgotten.”

Congressman Bobby Scott, D-Va., called Boone a “pioneer and a fixture in the Virginia Press Corps.”

“While he was my friend, Ray was always a newsman first and never hesitated to hold my feet to the fire on issues important to the Richmond community,” Scott said in a statement. “I enjoyed our many interviews and editorial board meetings and I will miss talking politics and policy with him. I know his legacy will endure through the countless lives he has touched and will continue to touch through the Richmond Free Press.”

Boone is survived by his wife, the former Jean Patterson of Columbia, S.C.; and their two adult children, Regina Helen Boone and Raymond H. Boone Jr.


Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO