My one true love… Crossing 4 decades with the Courier

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After graduating from Southern Illinois University with my degree in hand, a double major in journalism and radio/television, I was ready to see what was out there. I wanted to work for a Black newspaper, and nothing less would do. I wanted to make a difference in the Black community.

ulishcarter1970s
ULISH CARTER IN THE ‘70s

I had a hunger for know­ledge that just couldn’t be quenched. I spent so much time in the library, the librarians knew me when I hit the door and many times had books waiting for me. I didn’t waste time on fiction; I wanted information, knowledge of Blacks in America. Why so much hatred? I spent so much time in the library that my grades suffered. Math, science, english, foreign languages didn’t interest me at all, it was what happened in the world and what was happening in the world. It was history,  social studies, civics and what could I do to help better conditions for Black people.

 

Moving from the segregated schools in the South it was somewhat of a shock for me on my first day of school in the North when I walked in and 80 percent of the school was White, and all the teachers too. However, it was easier to adjust because Blacks and Whites didn’t mingle that much except for sports. And even though all students went to the same schools the communities were just as segregated as the South, just not by law.

So with this background I wanted to know my history. So I read. In college I first majored in Black history, then history, American, African and World history, but after taking a journalism class I was hooked. I enjoyed reading and learning so much that I wanted to continue to inform people, to tell their stories. So communications became my major. I read about the Pittsburgh Courier, the Afro American, the Chicago Defender and their contributions to the Black struggle. I enjoyed reading Jet, Ebony and Muhammad Speaks, which was the only means of information on Blacks, for Blacks, by Blacks, for those of us in small cities or towns.

So when I graduated I was ready. My resumes went only to Black newspapers. I knew I was ready and I knew I could help. The first to respond was Muhammad Speaks. I really wanted to work for them, because they were national and pulled no punches. But even though the managing editor saw my credentials and wanted to hire me on the spot, the general manager, or whoever he was, blocked it because I didn’t have a suit on. I couldn’t afford a suit, and I wasn’t going to ask my mother who was raising five other kids to buy one. It was their loss.

After this disappointment I got a call from my second choice the New Pittsburgh Courier, they needed a sports writer. Even though I really wanted to write news, I would do anything to just get my foot in the door. So I came to a city I had never seen, hundreds of miles from my family and friends to fulfill my dream. The Afro American sent me a letter a month later offering me a job but they were too late.

General Manager James Lewis hired me in 1973 as the sports writer. Woody Taylor was the managing editor, and Hazel Garland, my immediate boss, was the city editor. I loved that woman, she was brilliant when it came to journalism of all kinds. Most people are locked into news, or sports, or entertainment or society, she had done it all, so she understood it all and took the time to work closely with the somewhat cocky new guy. The other staff reporters at the time were Greg Mims, Eugene Reid, Joe Taylor, Willa Mae Rice and Teenie Harris was the full time photographer.

Greg did news and most of the entertainment, but when he left they hired a newsperson, Althea Fonville, who had no interest in entertainment. So I took it, added it to my sports and didn’t miss a beat. I didn’t get paid one cent more for the extra work, and I loved it. I realized later that I did get paid. I got to go to all the entertainment events. I got to meet some of the biggest stars in the history of entertainment as well as sports. In entertainment: Marvin Gaye, Prince, Chaka Khan when she was with Rufus, Nancy Wilson, Natalie Cole, I loved that woman; the Spinners, Whispers, Miracles, Impressions, Shalamar, Dynasty, Pointer Sisters, James Brown, Roberta Flack, Stephanie Mills, Shirley Caesar, Melba Moore, Phyllis Hyman, Ray, Goodman and Brown, the Temptations, Kool and the Gang, Sugar Hill Gang, Maze,  Art Blakey, B.B. King, Jermaine Jackson, Freddie Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Crusaders, LaBelle, Sister Sledge, Funk­a­delic Parliament, Earth Wind and Fire, Harry Belafonte, just to name a few.

Some of the athletes other than the Steelers and Pirates were; Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Joe Louis, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Jesse Owens, Wilma Rudolph, a magnificent woman; Roger Kingdom, Lou Brock, Curt Flood, Ernie Banks, Doug Williams, Steve McNair, James Harris, Walter Peyton, Jim Brown and Warren Moon, to name a few.

I didn’t make much money, but nobody I knew growing up did, so as long as I had a roof over my head, food on my table and clothes on my back I was fine. I worked days, night, and weekends, and loved every minute of it.

In the mid ‘70s I moved from sports to news, as Mrs. Garland moved from city editor to editor and chief. I wanted to do all I could to make sure she was successful, and I could do what I really wanted to do, as well as help her. I selected Eddie Jefferies as my replacement in sports. He was a great selection; he was a key part of the Courier in sports and as a copy editor for many years. I continued to do entertainment aside from the news.

What many would consider boring, I loved. I loved the community meetings and the city council meetings. This bought me back to the real world. Sports and entertainment is great, but community meetings, community days, and other events held by the people, is really where it’s at.

I started layout and design of pages when I worked sports and Mrs. Garland put me in charge of entertainment, where I also designed the pages. I became associate editor in the late ‘70s and when Mrs. Garland retired, and her successor was fired after a short period of time I was promoted to managing editor. I had the privilege of working with some very outstanding reporters: Robert Flipping Jr., Jefferies, Ron Suber, Lou Ransom, Gerrie Ransom, Dennis Schatzman, Althea Fonville, Gary Webster, Phillip Harrigan, and photographers Teenie Harris, Don Thomas and Mark Southers.

But all good things must come to an end. The new general manager and I didn’t see eye to eye so I left during the early ‘80s and didn’t return full time until 1995. I had a good time and made some money as the only Black manager for Radio Shack in the Pittsburgh area for a long time, but the itch to write came back upon me and I started to freelance for the Courier in the early ‘90s which led to me coming back full time. Even though it hasn’t been as much fun as before I still love it. I can’t think of anything else I would rather do.

Yes, I would love to have more reporters, more photographers, and more pages but I do the best with what I have. We’ve gone from manual typewriters, to electric typewriters, to computers, but news is still reported the same way, you must pick up the phone or go out and get it. And I try to treat every event with the same importance as the people giving it does, we must tell their stories.

Even though there are more Blacks financially well off today they still need informati
on today more than ever. And I will continue to do everything I can to make sure that their stories are told by giving them the very best we have to offer.

I was told newspapers were near death when I came in 1973, that radio and TV were going to kill it, yet here we are 38 years later, and we are still here. Until Blacks are equal to Whites in every aspect of life, especially employment, education, and health; and the violence and drugs are driven from our communities, there will be a need for the Black press. This is why the Courier and the Black press will always be my one true love.

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