Remembering a friend from Suffolk

Published 11:03 pm Thursday, June 12, 2014

My first encounter with my friend Raymond Boone was in 2007, when I cold-called him to ask if he would help me with a school project.

I was only about a year into my job here at the Suffolk News-Herald and was completing my master’s degree, for which one of my classes was on alternative media. When I saw Mr. Boone scheduled to speak for men’s day at a local church, I took the chance of calling to see if he would meet me while he was in town to talk about the American black press, the topic of my final paper for the alternative media class.

He was as congenial as could be, and we met at the Hilton Garden Inn on the Sunday evening after his speech.


Email newsletter signup

Boone knew a little something about the black press. He was the founder, publisher and editor of the Richmond Free Press, which was devoted to covering issues of interest to the black community in the state’s capital. After starting his career here at the Suffolk 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.

During our talk at the Hilton that night, I still remember him telling me what the black press is all about. It’s not advocating just for blacks, he told me — it’s about pursuing social change that will lift everyone up.

For example, he told me about his “Love Lights” campaign, which urged Richmond leaders to keep up the Christmas lights until Valentine’s Day to bring light and good cheer to the darkest nights of the year. He said crime went down during those months after the program was implemented.

After that meeting, Mr. Boone and I continued our friendship annually at the Virginia Press Association conference. I could always count on him seeking me out to say hello and to make sure I took home a copy of that week’s Richmond Free Press.

Mr. Boone died June 3 — my birthday — after a battle with pancreatic cancer. I was proud to be able to write a story containing tributes from many local and state leaders.

He was a crusader against the oppressors of underprivileged people, no matter their location — in Richmond or beyond — and no matter their skin color. He will be dearly remembered and sorely missed by many in Virginia, including me.