Regis Bobonis Sr., who said he had a “front row seat to history” while working at the Pittsburgh Courier in the 1930s and spent the last 20 years championing the recognition of local Tuskegee Airmen, passed away Nov. 25 of natural causes. He was 91.
For a 2011 story on the Courier’s centennial, Bobonis recalled one of those front-row moments that occurred in 1932.
“I heard (founder) Bob Vann make a speech in Cleveland, Ohio, to the St. James Literary Society. No one expected anything unusual, but there was a bombshell embedded in that speech. It was a sucker punch,” Bobonis said. “When he said ‘turn Lincoln’s picture to the wall,’ 35,000 Blacks in Allegheny County, and 1 million across the country joined the Democratic Party.
The road to Barack Obama began in the Hill District office of Robert L. Vann.”
When World War II broke out, Bobonis joined the Navy serving as a petty officer. Following his discharge at the war’s end, he married his Schenley high school sweetheart and the love of his life, the late Hurley Williams. They remained married for the next 53 years.
But he stayed in the news business, becoming the first African American reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, then becoming the first Black television reporter in Pittsburgh by joining WIIC (now WPXI).
He joked that “realizing he wasn’t the stuff of Pulitzer Prizes,” Bobonis transitioned to public relations, working for Mercy Hospital for 25 years and then at Duquesne Light before retiring.