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Sat, 01.22.1887

I. Willis Cole, Newspaper Publisher born

I. Willis Cole

*I. Willis Cole was born on this date in 1887. He was a Black newspaper editor and publisher, and human rights activist.

He was born in Memphis, Tennessee. He started a newspaper career as a carrier at the age of 12. Cole graduated from Lemoyne Junior College in 1906 and later attended the University of Chicago. Became owner, publisher, and editor of the Louisville Leader in 1917, Kentucky's first Black daily newspaper, which boasted as its motto: "We print your news, we employ your people, we champion your cause."

As a Leader, Cole was a persistent champion of justice and fair play for Blacks. Active in the fight against Jim Crow laws and the push against segregated recreation facilities and streetcars in Louisville, he wrote editorials quoted by local, regional, and national publications. Helped mobilize support for bond issues to benefit black schools in Louisville. He was congratulated by President Harry S Truman for his editorials just before his death in 1950.

He was a devoted church member and civic leader. Member of the National Negro Press Hall of fame and inducted into the Distinguished Gallery of Black Newspaper Publishers in 1991. A historical highway marker in his honor was dedicated in 1997. The University of Louisville Archives houses what remains of daily issues of the paper, about 1,200 editions.

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