Chuck Stone praised as a warrior, peacemaker

By Wayne Dawkins

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The lights darkened in Carroll Hall auditorium and the memorial service began with a slide show of Chuck Stone images. As the Count Basie tune “Shiny Stockings” played, there were black and whites of Stone as a youth, in his U.S. Army Air Corps uniform, in a dashiki, and with LBJ, with Jesse Jackson and with James Baldwin. The color images were of family.

Stone, 89, founding president of the National Association of Black Journalists and legendary columnist turned distinguished professor, died April 6. About 200 people gathered at the University of North Carolina School of Journalism – where Stone was Walter Spearman Professor from 1991-2004 – to pay tribute.

“His genius was he operated in the margins of conflict. He operated as a warrior and peacemaker,” said Phil Meyer, emeritus professor at UNC, who was a neighbor of Stone when they lived in a Washington suburb in the 1960s. When Meyer persuaded Stone to leave the Philadelphia Daily News in 1991 after nearly two decades and 4,000 columns, the editor said “You can’t take him, he’s our franchise.” Meyer answered “He’s ours now.”

Richard Cole, emeritus dean of UNC J-school, said Stone counseled his students to “tell the stories of those on the margins of society. Don’t just be the best journalists; be the best and help others.” Stone, memorable for his jug headed crew cut and bow ties, impressed Grateful Dead fans who arrived on campus for a concert, said Cole. “Hey man, I like your lid,” said a “dead head” of Stone’s Music Man-style straw hat. Stone’s remains were cremated with his hat, noted Cole.

In helping create NABJ in 1975 with 43 other men and women, Bob Butler, the association’s 20th president, said of Stone’s leadership, “imagine moving, and then trying to find the right church until you find the one that’s home.”

Butler said at the Boston convention in August, the Chuck Stone Lifetime Achievement Award will be announced. Stone was the 1992 Lifetime Achievement winner.

Charles Stone III, a fine artist and drummer, said his father “taught me how to swing, be in the zone, the Chi, or in the pocket.”

Near the close of 90-minute service, Stone impersonated his father at home. His dad would write in the den with jazz recordings blasting and vinyl records covering the floor. Charles Stone III replayed “Shiny Stockings,” and then imitated Chuck Stone cake walking and scatting to the solos and chord changes.

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“Fearless, subversive and endearing Chuck Stone” was published April 9 on politicsincolor.com