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*Carl Rowan was born on this date in 1925. He was an Black federal cabinet member, international ambassador and syndicated newspaper columnist.
Rowan was born in Ravencroft, Tennessee, but his family soon moved to nearby McMinuville, where he was raised. He graduated in 1942 from Bernard High as valedictorian and president of a class of 13 students. In 1942, he enrolled at Tennessee A&I, now Tennessee State University. Two years later, during World War II, Mr. Rowan passed a competitive exam to become one of the first Blacks in Naval officer training.
In 1948, Rowan earned a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota and joined the Minneapolis Tribune as a general assignment reporter. His reporting on race relations led to an appointment to deputy secretary of state by John Kennedy in 1961 and Ambassador to Finland during the Kennedy administration. Subsequently, President Lyndon B. Johnson named Rowan as director of the U. S. Information Agency.
After reading about a high school where Black students were embarrassed to stand as their names were called during an honor roll ceremony, he created Project Excellence to help black youth to finish school and go on to college. Since its founding in 1987, it has awarded more than $58 million to some 2,400 young people. On television Rowan was a panelist on “Inside Washington” from 1967 to 1996. Rowan found himself in the middle of controversy many times, engaging various public figures such as Louis Farrakhan and Pat Buchanan in his writings. He once called Ronald Reagan a racist.
Rowan advocated gun control and was arrested for using an unregistered gun to wound an intruder in his back yard; he argued that he had the right to use any means needed to protect himself and his family. He was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1995, and won the NAACP’s Spingarn Award in 1988. Once called “America’s most visible Black journalist,” Carl Rowan died on September 23rd 2000 in Washington D. C.
Black Heroes of The Twentieth Century
Edited by Jessie Carney Smith
Copyright 1998 Visible Ink Press, Detroit, MI