The Cleveland Call and Post first began publication in 1928. It came about as a result of a merger of two local papers that catered to Cleveland’s growing black community, the Cleveland Call, which first started publication in 1916 and the Cleveland Post, which started in 1920. Cleveland inventor and community activist Garret Morgan, known for his invention of the traffic signal, was instrumental in the merger.
In 1932 William O. Walker became the editor and publisher. Over the span of the next 49 years Walker, who remained forever loyal to the Republican Party, made the Call and Post one of the most influential black newspapers in the country, expanding its circulation to Columbus and Cincinnati. Politicians, both white and black, sought its endorsement and bought advertising in hopes of garnering votes in the black community.
With Walker’s death in 1981 and the beginning of the decline of weekly newspapers and print media in general, the Call and Post began to struggle. By 1995 it went into bankruptcy. In 1998 it was purchased by boxing promoter Don King.
This past Sunday I picked up a free copy of the most recent edition of the paper. King should have stuck to boxing. Sadly, he has turned a once influential voice of the black community into a sycophantic diatribe in praise Donald J. Trump. It is totally devoid of news and can only be described as a propaganda sheet in support of and a campaign flyer for the man who currently resides in the White House.
The entire bottom half of the front page, under the title Breaking News, is a stream-of-consciousness rambling essay by King all in praise of Trump. Intermixed with Bible verses that seemingly have no relation to the previous text, the article continues to page three with more nonsensical chatter. If I counted correctly, Trump’s name is mentioned 28 times and, in every instance, his name is preceded by adjectives such as god-sent or spiritually touched or some other messianic descriptions that puts Trump on a par with Jesus Christ.
Eleven times in the same article King sings the praises of North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un — a man with the blood of thousands on his hands, including his own brother and Ohioan Otto Warmbier, the imprisoned student who was sent back to the United States in a vegetative state and died shortly after his return.
There is a section of the paper whose cover page is a full-page, upclose-and-personal head shot of King. The back page is essentially a campaign ad for Trump, featuring a large picture of Trump, a smaller one of Vice President Mike Pence and more Bible verses and accolades of the President. The inside pages include more self-adulation of King, reprints of speeches by Trump and a four-page article about the Alabama constitution of 1901, the relevance of which I’m still trying to figure out.
Trump and King hooked up in the late 1970s when King promoted fights at Trump’s New Jersey casinos. They obviously cemented a bond that led to King’s starring role in the Black Folks for Trump Committee when Trump announced his presidential bid. King felt so comfortable while introducing Trump during the 2016 campaign, that he dropped the N-word, a slip of the tongue that made national news and further enhanced King’s role as Trump’s bushy-headed jester by the door.
When visitors come to town, I frequently take them to Lake View Cemetery. The view from the top of the President James A. Garfield monument is spectacular and the rolling hills of the cemetery with the majestic tombstones of famous Clevelanders tell much of the city’s history. The next time I go, I plan to stop at the graves of Garrett A. Morgan and William O. Walker. Their tombstones are probably askew. I suspect that both men have turned over in their graves.
The current Call and Post is a disgrace to black journalism. It is an insult to Cleveland’s black community. Many black journalists around the city and the nation who got their start there have probably deleted any reference to it from their resume — I would if I were them. Once criticized for its sensational coverage of violence, it is now a newspaper without news. It is the ravings of a barely literate has-been who uses his money to see his own name and face in print. Shame on the advertisers who support this sorry excuse for a newspaper and shame on anyone who spends money to buy it.
Trump once bragged that he could kill someone and get away with it. King did kill someone and get away with it. In 1967 he was convicted of second-degree murder in connection with the death of Sam Garrett, his employee who owed him $600. In 1983 Republican Governor James Rhodes granted King a pardon. Maybe King’s praise of Trump and support of the Republican party is part of the debt to the GOP.
C. Ellen Connally is a retired judge of the Cleveland Municipal Court. From 2010 to 2014 she served as the President of the Cuyahoga County Council. An avid reader and student of American history, she serves on the Board of the Ohio History Connection, is currently vice president of the Cuyahoga County Soldiers and Sailors Monument Commission and president of the Cleveland Civil War Round Table. She holds degrees from BGSU, CSU and is all but dissertation for a PhD from the University of Akron.