Free Press founder Boone dies

Published 10:30 pm Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Richmond Free Press publisher and editor Raymond H. Boone, who started his journalism career at the Suffolk News-Herald, died Tuesday morning at his home in Richmond.

Boone, 76, had been battling illness for months, according to a statement from the Richmond Free Press and the Boone family. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported he had suffered from pancreatic cancer.

Raymond Boone (Courtesy of Richmond Free Press)

Raymond Boone (Courtesy of Richmond Free Press)

Boone’s career in journalism began in Suffolk, his hometown, in 1957. After less than five years at the News-Herald, he went on to become city editor for the Boston Chronicle and later a reporter, editor and vice president of the Afro-American newspaper chain.


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He founded the Richmond Free Press in January 1992.

“As far as I’m concerned, he was the No. 1 publisher of a black publication in the whole country,” said Suffolk Councilman Lue Ward, who also publishes a weekly newspaper that caters to the black community. “What he said, that’s what he believed. What he brought to the African-American community was unheard of.”

Ward said he modeled his publication after the Free Press, which also publishes weekly.

“I think he was the best,” he said.

Suffolk native and former Richmond television journalist Dennis Edwards said Boone was “an incredible advocate for newspaper journalism and the black press.”

“He became a forerunner in the area of advocacy journalism,” Edwards said. “He became an advocate for the black community and a voice for the oppressed.”

Speaking in Suffolk at Laurel Hill United Church of Christ’s men’s day in November 2007, Boone had this to say about the difference between boys and men: “Boys play house, men build homes; boys shack up, men marry; boys don’t raise their own children, men raise their own and someone else’s; boys look for someone to take care of them, men look for others to take care of.”

Boone had accumulated many honors during his career, including being inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame and winning the 2006 Oliver W. Hill Freedom Fighter Award from the Virginia NAACP. He was a Pulitzer Prize juror on two separate occasions and led the successful effort to place blacks and women on the Pulitzer Prize Board.

One of his successful advocacy projects was Richmond’s “Love Lights” campaign, which urged Richmond to keep its Christmas lights up until Valentine’s Day to light the darkest nights of the year.

Virginia politicians also paid tribute to Boone in statements on Tuesday.

“Raymond Boone was a singular figure in the history of journalism and politics in Virginia,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe said. “His was a life devoted to justice, equality and a well-informed public discourse, and I know that singular commitment will live on, thanks to his leadership at the Richmond Free Press.”

Congressman Bobby Scott said the Free Press has been “an important source of news and information for the Richmond community, often covering issues and stories left unnoticed by larger media organizations.”

Scott said Boone “never hesitated to hold my feet to the fire.”

Sen. Mark Warner said Boone “exemplified the old saying that newspapers are supposed to ‘comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.’”

Funeral arrangements are incomplete. Boone is survived by his wife, Jean Boone, the president of advertising at the Richmond Free Press; his son, Raymond Boone Jr., director of account resolution at the Richmond Free Press; and his daughter, Regina Boone, a photographer at the Detroit Free Press.