By Frances (Toni) Murphy Draper,
AFRO CEO and Publisher
My mother, Frances L. Murphy II, was a winner and a role model to many- especially aspiring Black journalists. For most of her life she enjoyed two professions: working at the AFRO founded by her grandfather, John H. Murphy Sr., and teaching. She began her newspaper career at the Baltimore AFRO-American, went on to head the Richmond AFRO-American, later the Washington AFRO-American and served the company as its board chair from 1972 to 1974. In 1986, she returned to the Washington AFRO as publisher and retired in 1999, an event duly noted by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton in the Congressional Record.
In 1999, after moving to the family home in Baltimore’s Morgan Park (which was built by her parents in 1929), Mom continued to write editorials for both the Baltimore and Washington AFROs and an occasional news story. From 1958 to 1964, she taught third grade in the Baltimore City Public Schools. She also taught at Morgan State College (now University) where she headed the news bureau for seven years; then at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and at the State University College at Buffalo (commonly called Buffalo State), where she chaired the journalism sequence. She retired from Buffalo State as a tenured associate professor. In 2019, Buffalo State posthumously presented her with its Hall of Fame Achievement Award.
My mother retired a second time from teaching, after serving from 1984 to 1991 at Howard University where she was promoted from visiting professor to associate professor of journalism.
An early adapter to technology, she enjoyed writing hard-hitting editorials and news stories. She also took pride in mentoring young journalists like Hamil Harris, James Wright, LaWanza Spears, John White, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and noted sports columnist, Bill Rhoden. Her oral history, which gives many more details of her life (including her time as an undergraduate journalism student at the University of Wisconsin) is posted on the Washington Press Club Foundation’s web page http://www.wpcf.org. In March, 2019 the National Newspaper Publishers’ Associated enshrined her into the Black Press Gallery of Distinguished Publishers.
A single Mom to me, my brother (Dr. James E. Wood Jr.) my sister (Susan Wood Barnes) and a beloved “Stepmom” to Bud (Charles Campbell Jr), Jay and David Campbell, her greatest treasures were her grandchildren. She even initiated a “Camp Granny” where she invited every grandchild to come to her house for a week each summer to have fun, “hawk” AFROs on the corners of D.C. and to learn their family history. As a tribute to her, a version of Camp Granny is still held every two years, with the next one occurring in July, 2022. And who could forget her later-in-life love of golf and the 2-seater Benz she purchased at age 80…because she finally could! She was indeed a winner in life and in death.
Eight months before her death she penned a letter simply entitled: “To my children”
February 4, 2007
Many of you have heard me say over and over again that I had a good time living and enjoyed every moment of my life. Yes, there were some ups and downs but each time I grew a little bit so that I could enjoy life more. Even if the Lord decides I should suffer at the end, this does not change my mind about the good life. I have been blessed. Thank you, Lord!
It is for this reason that I want my funeral to be a joyous occasion as I take my journey into eternity with my God and Savior Jesus Christ.
My funeral should be held at St. James’ Episcopal church in Baltimore. I would ask that the priest officiate but that my grandchildren read the Gospel, the Epistle, the lessons and the Psalter; that they take the time to let Bobby, Jake, Jimmy, Sue, David, Andre, Robin, Lance, Kevin, and Marlene say a one-minute word or two about me, and that the family prayer be given by Toni. All of my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren should participate. (Pallbearers, ushers, etc.) Don’t let anyone rush you. This is for eternity. And, if elected officials attend, thank them for their support, and kindly let them know that my wishes are for only those named above should speak at my funeral.
Sing, “O Master Let Me Walk With Thee”, “Peace Perfect Peace” and Dad’s song, “Joy, Joy is in the Air.” The St. James’ Gospel Choir—of which I was a former member—should also be invited to sing.
The Delta Omega Omega Service, the LINKS Service, the Holidays’ Service and then the church service should come first, followed by burial in the family plot at Arbutus. There should be special seating for my club members—Deltas, Links, Holidays, Chums, Et Cetera, SKCs, Chipperettes, Philomathians, Morgan State University Women, The Second Thursday Club—and for AFRO employees and the Douglass High School Class of ‘40–and from St. James’, the St. Agnes Guild, the Greeters and the Vestry (of which I was a former member.)
A champagne soirée can be held following the burial at a designated place or in the church hall. Just serve small sandwiches and cake — have a band or a disco jockey and dance…have fun. You have all seen my will so there are no surprises there.
Do read this letter at the funeral service so that my friends and family will understand that to me death is no time for tears but a time for celebration; a time to bring families together so that they can worship together, plan together for the future, and then have fun.
Love you all…Mother.
Frances L. Murphy, II died on November 21, 2007, but her winning ways and wise sayings live on through her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, students, colleagues, friends and foes alike. Everyone who knew her has a “Frances Murphy story.”
Thanks, Mom. And, thanks to every member of the AFRO team who created another beautiful, story-filled special edition on Women Who Win. From advertising to business to editorial to production – each department has a hand in the final publication. Women Who Win – in the boardroom, in the storeroom, in the stock market, in their own homes with their own children – and those who spend extra time with children who belong to their neighbors. Start with the cover and meet the Women who touch the world in special places – and always come out on the winning side.
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