Photo by Jay Paul
Raymond H. Boone at the Richmond Free Press
Raymond H. Boone, founder, editor and publisher of the Richmond Free Press, died this morning after a nine-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 76.
Boone founded the Free Press, a weekly newspaper widely read in Richmond’s African-American community, in 1992. The paper has a readership of more than 135,000, according to Boone’s bio on the Free Press website. Under Boone’s leadership, the newspaper won several state and national honors for excellence in journalism, including eight awards from the National Newspaper Publishers Association in 2003.
Boone told Richmond magazine in 2007 that the paper’s name “represents our commitment to the First Amendment. Everything we do is based on constitutional principles.” Boone rejected the notion of objectivity in journalism, instead opting to openly criticize leaders, businesses and policies in the interest of the Free Press’ readers.
His son, Raymond Boone Jr., says his father was involved in the paper’s day-to-day operations until the day he died.
“My father was a crusader for justice,” Boone Jr. says. “He was the example of that in Richmond, Virginia.”
Terone Green, chairman of the Richmond Ambulance Authority and a longtime friend of the elder Boone, says fearlessness was what set Boone apart.
“Mr. Boone was a pioneer in the Richmond community and a strong voice and advocate in the black community … There’s going to be a huge void because Mr. Boone had the guts and courage to challenge anyone and everything about anything,” Green says.
Boone graduated from Boston University with a degree in journalism and received his master’s degree in political science from Howard University. A native of Suffolk, Boone first worked in journalism as a reporter at the Suffolk News-Herald in the late 1950s. He was an editor and vice president of the Baltimore-based Afro-American Newspaper Group and twice served as a Pulitzer Prize jurist, according to his Free Press bio.
Boone taught journalism at Howard University in Washington, D.C., for nine years before starting the Free Press. In 2000, he was inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame, one of many individual honors he won.
In a statement, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones commended Boone for offering readers “a window into the world of black Richmond.”
“The passing of Ray Boone really marks the end of a personality who was an integral part of our city,” Jones says in the statement. “His stalwart support for the black community, for economic justice and fairness, paved the way for change in so many ways … When I think of Ray, the word that comes to mind for me is ‘crusader.’ It’s clear to me that Ray Boone was a giant of a personality that won’t soon be forgotten. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones during this time of loss.”
Boone, who was Jones’ neighbor, invited Occupy Richmond protesters to camp in his yard in 2012 after the mayor did not respond to a letter listing their demands.
“By letting the Occupy protesters camp on his lawn, he was obviously for broadening the dialogue in our community,” says Mo Karn, a community activist and member of the Wingnut Collective. “He was pretty obviously putting his power behind the people, which is admirable.”
Gov. Terry McAuliffe called Boone “a true Virginia legend” in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon.
“Raymond Boone was a singular figure in the history of journalism and politics in Virginia,” McAuliffe stated. “His was a life devoted to justice, equality and a well-informed public discourse, and I know that commitment will live on thanks to his leadership at the Richmond Free Press.”
Boone's son says the newspaper will not waiver from the path his father led it on.
“As an employee of the Free Press, it’s a solid organization,” Boone Jr. says. “We will follow the mission my father created — giving a voice to the voiceless.”
In addition to his son, Boone is survived by his wife Jean, and daughter, Regina.