Pioneering civil rights journalist, Almena Lomax passed away this morning in Pasadena, California at 95, leaving with the work the legacy of one of the icon African-American papers in the country.
The Los Angeles Tribune was Lomax’ gift to journalism, a daily that told not only the struggles of American-Americans but also presented them as a fuller people as well. Regularly read by poet Langston Hughes, the paper presented Black people in American existed not merely as characters, but real people with real joy and pain.
Lomax was born in Galveston, Texas on July 23, 1915 to a seamstress and a postal worker. She studied journalism at Los Angeles City College before going to work for a Black weekly. Years later, with a $100 dollar loan, she started the Tribune, creating one of the most dynamic news rooms in the country.
A strong proponent for multi-culturalism, Lomax hired two Japanese American writers who had been interned during World War II. She believed that all perspectives were to be valued, that they were necessary to tell a whole story.
Over the course of her career, Lomax covered notable events such as the 1956 bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama where she met Dr. Martin Luther King. While her work put her at the frontline of the Civil Rights Movement, it also exacerbated problems in her marriage and eventually cause her and then husband, Lucius W. Lomax to split.
In a heartbreakingly beautiful piece of writing, Lomax described the moment she knew her marriage would not last:
I faced it at that moment: Montgomery meant nothing to my husband. He hadn’t heard the signal to rise. “The brother” meant nothing to him. He didn’t feel the emotion pulsing rhythmically under his skin when the halting, crippled words of a front-line fighter like Moses Wright, the ancient uncle of Emmett Till, were lined out like a hymn at a mass meeting:
I said to myself: A man’s got to die, he might as well go out the right way.
If her children serve as any indication, Almena Lomax’s life was an example. Her son Michael Lomax, is president and chief executive officer for the United Negro College Fund. Her daughter Melanie was a prominent attorney and former Los Angeles city Police Commission President.
She said that her coverage of stories often made her children traumatized, was her single biggest regret but as Michael told The Los Angeles Times:
“It was the story of her lifetime, and she tried very hard to tell it.”
Lomax’s dedication to sharing our stories made her an inspiration to us all. She will be sorely missed and always remembered.