Richmond Free Press founders win prestigious George Mason Award
Jeremy M. Lazarus | 9/24/2020, 6 p.m.
The founders of the Richmond Free Press are being honored with one of Virginia journalism’s top awards.
Founding publisher, the late Raymond H. Boone, and his wife, Jean Patterson Boone, who has served as publisher since Mr. Boone’s death in June 2014, are the winners of the 2020 George Mason Award for outstanding contributions to the field, the Virginia Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists announced Wednesday.
The SPJ chapter cited the Boones for their leadership of the weekly newspaper they launched on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in 1992 and noted the publication has won numerous awards from the Virginia Press Association, the National Newspaper Publishers Association and other organizations.
In nominating the Boones, Jack White, who has covered the Civil Rights Movement and Black politics for The Washington Post, TIME magazine and TheRoot.com and has done freelance work for the Richmond Free Press, wrote: “For decades, the name Boone has been synonymous with the best traditions of the American press. ...
“Ray’s wife Jean was his partner and ally in (their) relentless crusade and, after his death, she became (the newspaper’s) unflinching leader. Now their children – Ray Boone Jr. and Regina Boone, one of America’s best photojournalists – are helping to carry the torch as the Free Press pursues its mission of giving voice to the voiceless. I can’t think of a family whose dedication and sacrifice better exemplify the values enshrined in the First Amendment.”
The nomination also received support from SPJ member Frances Broaddus-Crutchfield, a retired Richmond journalist who previously freelanced for the Richmond Free Press, wrote that the late Mr. Boone was “a champion for truth, justice, accuracy and correct grammar. He forced journalism to do its job and do it well.”
Mrs. Boone was surprised and pleased by the award.
“I am humbled and delightfully grateful to learn that Ray and I have been selected to receive the prestigious George Mason Award,” Mrs. Boone said in a statement.
“As we know, Ray was the guiding force in creating the Free Press. I enthusiastically joined him in this venture and so did an incredibly talented and dedicated staff, many of whom have been a part of the Free Press team for more than 25 years.
“I am also so fortunate to have two talented adult children who continue to contribute to the success of the Free Press from when it was just an idea.
“This is an honor for all of us.”
Mr. Boone began his newspaper career as a reporter at the Suffolk News-Herald in the late 1950s. He later ran the now defunct Richmond Afro-American and Planet before moving to Baltimore to serve as vice president of the Afro-American Newspaper Group. He also taught journalism at Howard University and served as a Pulitzer Prize juror.
He and his wife returned to Richmond to begin the Free Press 29 years ago.
The Boones are the 55th recipients of the award that the Virginia SPJ chapter created in 1964 and named for the principal author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the model for the first 10 amend- ments to the U.S. Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights.