• Alex Nelson

Black journalism pioneer, Paul H. Brock, passes away


The journalism community mourns the loss of Paul H. Brock, a fierce organizer and champion of Black journalists. Brock, 89, passed away last Sunday after battling complications related to diabetes according to his family.

Brock's legacy as a journalist and news media professional spans more than six decades. He is perhaps best known as a founding contributor and the primary organizer of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ)—the oldest and largest organization of American journalists of color—but his work in journalism precedes NABJ's 1975 founding.

Brock began his career in news while he was a U.S. Air Force staff sergeant serving as editor for an upstate New York military installation newspaper. After completing military service, Brock was unable to find work as a journalist and left for the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1962, citing discriminatory hiring practices and racism in American newsrooms. He worked as a reporter with a local affiliate CBS radio and television station until 1965.

When he returned to the states, Brock worked his way through the news ranks until, in 1970, he became the news director at WHUR-FM, Howard University's then fledgling radio station. Brock's three-year tenure at Howard, his alma mater, was marked by the development of several popular radio programs and arguably, an early form of today's ubiquitous online news format, the podcast. "The Potter's House," a talk radio program Brock created, was broadcast from a local Washington D.C. coffee shop. The show was so well received that it ran for three years after Brock left his post at Howard.

Brock also developed a nationally syndicated radio show called “Black Voices,” which featured interviews with politicians and elected officials from across the United States. His proximity to elected officials coupled with his position as an experienced journalist placed him in a unique position to leverage his relationships. In collaboration with several other Black, D.C. journalists, Brock formed The Washington Association of Black Journalists.

His participation in the organization was short-lived, however, because in 1974 he became the deputy communications director for the Democratic National Committee. During his tenure at the DNC and despite the fact that he was no longer a journalist, Brock helped bring together NABJ's 44 founding members. He would later become the executive director of the organization, serving for nearly a decade.

In a statement celebrating Brock's life and contributions, NABJ President Dorothy Tucker honored the journalism giant.

“Founder Brock played such an integral role in the success of NABJ. His love, compassion, zeal, expertise and persevering spirit were always valued by the NABJ family. His long and fruitful career served as inspiration to many of us that hard work and commitment to community can open many doors,” Tucker said.

Chuck Stone, the founding president of NABJ, called Brock "the Henry Kissinger of Black journalists" in reference to his ability to organize people, specifically the 44 men and women who eventually formed NABJ in December of 1975.

Paul H. Brock leaves behind four children and his wife, Virginia.