By Thomas E. Mitchell, Jr.
Greg Stanford, a former columnist at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and a founding member and first president of the Wisconsin Black Media Association, will be remembered as a mentor and trailblazer who opened doors for Black journalists.
Stanford died recently after a long illness. He was 72. Current and retired Black journalists called their colleague and friend a voice for the city’s Black community; as its advocate who wrote stories that spoke to their challenges living, working, and raising a family in a hyper-segregated metropolis struggling with race and racism.
“He was in a unique position to advocate,” said Mikel Holt, columnist and associate publisher of the Milwaukee Community Journal. Holt remembered that Stanford started—as most Black journalists in media did back in the day—with the Black press, more specifically the Milwaukee Star-Times, a Black weekly newspaper and precursor to the Community Journal.
Holt said he and Stanford would often do similar topics in their columns and call each other to compare notes afterward or just to talk issues and journalism.
“He would say the same thing I would say (as it related to covering Black issues) and get attacked by White readers, while I–writing for the Black press—wouldn’t because my audience was Black. He was a little jealous of that.”
The MCJ associate publisher recalled Stanford saying to him he was fortunate to be able to work in the Black media where he didn’t have to worry about his articles being “edited” to reflect “alternate facts” as it related to such particulars as the number of Black people participating in a protest march.
Holt said such methods by the mainstream (white) press reflects the fact that newspapers—and the media in general (the Black press admits it has an agenda in the way it writes)— have secret agendas as it relates to how the powers-that-be were portrayed in newsprint or on television news at six and 10 o’clock.
“Greg cherished his days working for the Black press,” Holt noted. “He laid the foundation for my work in it.”
Stanford would also, at times, express his frustration to Holt about being one of the few Black journalists on the staffs of the Journal and its one-time rival, the Sentinel.
“People don’t know how much racism he had to endure at the Journal,” Holt said. “He would get letters from racist White readers baiting him and calling him all sorts of racist names. But he never gave up.
“He had a lot of courage to endure what he endured. For a long time, he was the lone voice writing about Black folks (in the mainstream press). He was a mentor to James Causey (a Journal Sentinel columnist who knew and worked with Stanford).
“You could see the influence Greg had on James because James’ writing style is somewhat similar to Greg’s writing.
“He was a brilliant warrior.” MCJ Publisher Patricia O’Flynn Pattillo, who knew Stanford going back to his Star-Times days, called him a “solid man and a superb writer” who was “a devoted, impassioned foot soldier for justice.
“I shall long appreciate his willingness to journey with us when love of change empowered his every thought. He will be missed and his legacy shall long endure.”
Causey, who met Stanford when he was a 7th grader at Jackie Robinson Middle School at its career week and caught the writing bug listening to his future mentor talk about his passion for writing, called his friend in a lengthy Facebook post, “a major influence and supporter.
“Throughout my journalism career Greg has been there for me with words of wisdom and encouragement,” Causey wrote. “When I lost my father five months ago, he was one of the first people to express his condolences to me.”
Causey said when he finished a fellowship at Harvard University in 2008, Stanford was retiring from the Journal Sentinel’s editorial department.
“When he retired, he told me that it was my time to become the community griot. When I came back to the paper, I told them there was only one job that I wanted. Greg’s job.”
Another retired Journal and Journal Sentinel colleague, Eugene Kane, in his Facebook post about his friend, called Stanford: “the golden standard for Black columnists—any columnist really—in Milwaukee and set the bar for anyone who attempts to have the same impact with their words.
“I knew Greg for more than 30 years, from my first days in Milwaukee. I saw him as the ‘Dean of Black columnists’ and when I started writing a column, there was no better example to follow.
“He was a friend and a colleague and someone I respected.” After his retirement from the newspaper, Stanford started the Ayzha Fine Arts Gallery. He continued to give back to young people by judging writing contests and awarding scholarships.
Funeral services for Stanford will be held Sunday, April 14, at 2 p.m. at Wisconsin Memorial Park “Chapel of Chimes,” 13235 W. Capitol Drive.
He will lie instate Sunday 1 p.m. at the “Chapel of Chimes” until the start of the services. Visitation is Saturday, April 13, from 3 to 7 p.m. Family will receive guests from 6-7 p.m. at Northwest Funeral Chapel, 6630 W. Hampton Ave.