Dr. Mary Ellen Strong, a Wisconsin media pioneer passed at the age of 91 years-old at her home in California on November 27, 2012. She was the first in many things in her lifetime.
“She was like a mother to me and I loved her like a mother and the mentor she was too me,” said Robert Thomas, associate publisher of the Milwaukee Community Journal. “She was a mentor not only as it relates to newspapers and communication, but business in general as well.”
In Milwaukee, she was the first publisher of the first Negro Business Directory, a publication that published from 1949 through the late 1950’s. This comprehensive business directory was the first of its kind in Wisconsin. She later founded the Milwaukee Defender, the first Black weekly newspaper in Wisconsin, that published until 1961.
She picked up and moved to Chicago in the mid-1960’s, and began working for The Chicago Courier, a Black weekly newspaper founded by the late S.B. Fuller, the first Black male self-made millionaire in the United States.
Strong was the marketing director for the newspaper, and one of her many accomplishments during her tenure there was being one of two women honored by the Chicago Chamber of Commerce with Businesswoman of the Year, the other woman was the late actress Joan Crawford, who was working with Pepsi Cola at the time.
Strong took her marketing experience and launched her own marketing company, ‘The Welcome New Neighbor Service, Inc.’, a company that did door-to-door sampling in African American neighborhoods throughout the United States. Strong’s company held contracts with corporations such as Kelloggs and Proctor and Gamble. Her company travelled around the U.S., and for weeks at a time she hired locals to work alongside her full time travellling crew and they went out door-to-door in poor neighborhoods with samples from Kelloggs and Proctor and Gamble. She also developed an investment banking program for Black owned banks, where the large corporations that she worked with were encouraged by Strong to make large deposits in the banks, a program that allowed these banks to establish corporate credibility.
After years of seeing first hand the deterioration of the Black family, she was disturbed and it led her back into publishing. This time around it was a national magazine, ‘Black Family Magazine’. The focus of the magazine was to encourage the preservation of the Black family unit, and with this in mind she refused liquor and cigarette advertisements. The magazine set a standard that forced more established magazines aimed at the African American audience to cut down on all the “fluff” and “entertainment” and develop deeper content.
She spent her later years in the field of the ministry. She was a sought after speaker in mega churches across the U.S., she even became a regular guests on the 700 Club for several years.
She made Atlanta her home many years ago, and it is where she wanted to return to be laid to rest. There will be a memorial service and burial held on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012 at The Word of Faith Family Worship Cathedral in Austell, GA. She was preceded in death by her oldest son, Jesse Douglas Jones, and survived by her son, Jerrel Jones, daughter, Carolyn Wright, brothers, Atty. Leonard V. Brady, and Welton M. Brady. She also leaves behind grandchildren, great-grandchildren and one great-great grandson.