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NABJ Mourns the Loss of Founder Luix Overbea

WASHINGTON, DC (July 11, 2010) — The National Association of Black Journalists celebrates the life and service of Luix V. Overbea, one of its 44 founding members and a longtime veteran reporter for the Boston-based Christian Science Monitor.

Overbea passed away Saturday morning in Boston due to kidney failure. He was 87 years old.

Overbea’s accomplished newspaper and television career spanned more than 40 years. Although his career was primarily spent working in mainstream media, usually as the first and only black in the newsroom, he challenged NABJ to never forget the black press. From politics to sports, from civil rights to entertainment, Overbea’s diverse career focused on shedding light on untold stories. Overbea also worked for the Associated Negro Press; his work graced the pages of black newspapers across the country. Overbea received NABJ’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993.

“He was an exceptional trailblazer, whose tenacity and talent made NABJ and the world better,” said NABJ President Kathy Y. Times. “Without leaders like Luix Overbea there would be no NABJ. He truly paved the way for many black journalists to follow in his footsteps.”

Covering stories that made the world take notice, Overbea’s 1964 interview with Jesse Jackson, appearing in the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal, was one of the first interviews for the young Jackson, then leading lunch counter sit-ins at North Carolina A&T University.

Overbea’s 12-year tenure as one of the only black reporters on the southern newspaper began in 1956, when he started by writing the Journal’s “Negro page.”

“I knew Luix Overbea for more than 40 years. Whether he was writing for the black press or the majority press, his readers got the work of one of the best journalists in the history of the profession,” said friend and founding NABJ executive director Paul Brock.”He was always true to his profession, his culture and his community.”

Describing that newsroom’s attitudes toward blacks at that time, Overbea often remarked, “If I had bothered to turn my head every time somebody in that newsroom said the word ‘n—-r,’ I would have broken my neck.”

Previously, the Chicago native had worked for the Associated Negro Press after receiving a bachelor of philosophy in journalism degree from Northwestern University. “I was probably the last person to get that degree,” he laughed in an interview. “They changed the name after I left.”

Northwestern was not the only place where Overbea broke the mold. In the mid-’60s, he was editor of the black-owned St. Louis Sentinel and then moved to the daily Globe-Democrat. But most would know him as the lone black face and pioneer on the Christian Science Monitor, which he joined in 1970.

After 20 years on the Monitor newspaper staff, Overbea moved to Monitor Television as executive producer of “Inner City Beat” and in 1990 was named vice president for community affairs.

John Yemma, newly-named editor of the Monitor and a former colleague of Overbea’s said that he was a, “mentor and role model to many on the staff”.

“Luix Overbea was a pioneering journalist. Politically astute and professional in every aspect of his craft, Mr. Overbea exemplified the straightforward, balanced, thoughtful style of a Monitor journalist. During inner-city Boston’s tumultous reaction to court-ordered desegregation reaction in the 1970s, he was a careful analyst of the complex forces at work and a clear-eyed chronicler of history as it transpired,” said Yemma. “All of us at the Monitor were blessed by Luix’s contribution to our organization and to the world of journalism.”

Overbea also bought depth and experience to Boston and national media as a contributor to the Boston Globe, the Bay State Banner and other outlets. Also an artist and poet, “Hometown,” art by Overbea, is on display at the Roxbury Crossing Boston “T” Orange line train stop.

“Luix was a solid journalist who understood the basics of good journalism better than most,” said longtime friend and NABJ Founder Acel Moore.”I would venture to say that when he broke into the field, there were less than 50 of us writing for dailies.”

Overbea is survived by his daughter, Adgirene Overbea in Boston. An announcement on funeral arrangements is forthcoming.

An advocacy group established in 1975 in Washington, D.C., NABJ is the largest organization of journalists of color in the nation, with more than 4,100 members, and provides educational, career development and support to black journalists worldwide.
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