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Journalist Gwen Ifill remembered with new postage stamp launched at her Washington church

Adelle M. Banks/Religion News Service | 2/7/2020, 6 a.m.
In the historic African-American church where she worshipped, late journalist Gwen Ifill was remembered with a new Black Heritage postage ...
People applaud and take photos during the unveiling ceremony Jan. 30 for the new U.S. Postal Service Black Heritage series stamp honoring the late journalist Gwen Ifill. The ceremony took place at the church she was a member of, Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington.

WASHINGTON In the historic African-American church where she worshipped, late journalist Gwen Ifill was remembered with a new Black Heritage postage stamp in a ceremony featuring dignitaries of the church, politics and journalism.

Speakers at the event on Jan. 30 at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church took turns describing Ms. Ifill’s courage in defying expectations and praised her faith-fueled ability to serve as a mentor to young journalists who followed in her footsteps.

“The founders of imperial America never intended for Gwen to be Gwen,” the Rev. William H. Lamar IV, pastor of Metropolitan AME Church, told the hundreds gathered for the Forever stamp ceremony. “But the founders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church did intend for Gwen to be Gwen and for a million Gwens to follow Gwen Ifill.”

Deputy Postmaster General Ronald A. Stroman said the U.S. Postal Service considered many settings for the ceremony for the 43rd stamp in its Black Heritage series, but determined the Washington church was the appropriate venue.

“Her faith grounded her,” Mr. Stroman said just before unveiling a supersized version of the stamp before the large cross at the front of the sanctuary. “It gave her strength and informed the values that guided her life.”

Ms. Ifill, the first African-American and first woman to moderate a major television news-analysis show, died at age 61 in 2016 after a cancer diagnosis. She was the moderator and managing editor of “Washington Week” and senior political correspondent for “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.”

Ms. Ifill became co-anchor of the “PBS NewsHour,” part of the first all-women team to anchor a national nightly news program. Earlier in her career, she worked for newspapers, including The Washington Post and The New York Times.

The ceremony featured remembrances from friends and colleagues, including Washington Post contributing columnist Michele Norris, who served as mistress of ceremonies, and Ms. Ifill’s NewsHour co-host Judy Woodruff, who noted the stamp dedication occurred during the same week when the life of their mentor, Jim Lehrer, will be remembered after his death on Jan. 23.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser issued a proclamation declaring it Gwen Ifill Day in the city. Former President Clinton sent a video with remarks welcoming the journalist’s recognition, and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder read a congratula- tory statement from former President Obama.

Ms. Ifill’s brother, the Rev. Earle Ifill, said it was significant to have his sister’s memory honored at an African Methodist Episcopal church affiliated with a denomination in which she was an active part and her relatives held prominent roles.

“It is delightful and meaningful in the fact that not only is it an honor for her and for us as a family but for the AME Church as a whole as she has spent her life in service to the church,” Rev. Ifill, who retired in 2019 as the presiding elder of the denomination’s Atlanta East District, said in a phone interview earlier last week.

Known for her broadcast and print journalism and moderating of election season debates, Ms. Ifill was the daughter of parents who were natives of the Caribbean and who became deeply involved in the AME Church. Her father, a minister, eventu- ally became its general secretary, a post he still held when he died in 1991, and her mother was active in the denomination’s Women’s Missionary Society.