Bernadine Simmons, L. Victor Collins and Andre Braugher remembered
Free Press staff report | 12/14/2023, 6 p.m.
The world had Oprah. Richmond had Bernie. Longtime television journalist Bernadine A. “Bernie” Simmons, who died Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023, at age 79, was well known to many in Richmond and surrounding communities as the creator and face of NBC12’s popular “12 About Town” news show.
Ms. Simmons launched “ 12 About Town” in the 1980s for NBC12 (formerly WWBT Channel 12), highlighting events, locations and people throughout the Richmond community. With her irrepressible laugh, forthright manner and keen intelligence, Ms. Simmons left the Richmond station in the early 1990s to create a similar version of “12 About Town” in Charlotte, N.C. at a sister station. She was preceded in death by her son, Michael B. Simmons and a granddaughter, Tyjaisha Garner.
“Seeing Bernadine “Bernie” Simmons on local TV News back in the day was an epiphany,” said her former colleague Diane Walker, who retired from NBC12 a few years ago. “I was a teenager — talking into my hair brush as a microphone — pretending to be a reporter when a Black reporter-anchor was hired on NBC12. Just seeing someone who looked like me delivering the news was confirmation, affirmation, inspiration that I could also pursue my dream of becoming a broadcast journalist. Bernie was a bad ass, bold, tough, uncompromising and wise. She led by example. So grateful I got to work with the GOAT — a phenomenal Journalist! Rest In Heaven Trailblazer!”
Ms. Simmons’ family will host a visitation for friends at Joseph Jenkins Jr. Funeral Home on Friday, Jan. 12, at 5 p.m. and a celebration of her life will take place at the funeral home on Saturday, Jan. 13, at 1 p.m.
Around the same time that Ms. Simmons was informing Richmonders about happenings in Richmond, L. Victor Collins, was spreading his own advice and wisdom to students, faculty, staff and colleagues at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he served as director of multicultural affairs for several years. A beloved and respected figure on VCU’s campus, he also was known at various colleges and universities throughout the country, including Wichita State University and the University of Minnesota.
Long after Mr. Collins left VCU, his name continued to come up in conversations among practically anyone familiar with the burgeoning urban institution some 20-plus years ago.
Mr. Collins , 74, died Friday, Nov. 10, 2023, in Palm Desert, Calif., according to an obituary on the Trident Society website.
“Our hearts are saddened about the passing of Victor Collins,” reads a post on the Facebook page of the VCU African American Alumni Council.
“He was the director of Multicultural Affairs at VCU during the late 1980s into the early 2000s. He retired as the Asst. Vice President of Student Affairs at Towson State University. He was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated.
“He is remembered for being an advocate for all students on campus and attending almost every minority event or program for students on campus. Students used to love hanging outside his office in the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Our condolences to his family at this time.”
And who can forget the broad, teasing smiles or menacing scowls of André Braugher, an Emmy Award winning dramatic actor who translated his studied deadpan into comedic genius as Capt. Ray- mond Holt on “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,”. Mr. Braugher died Monday, Dec. 11, 2023, at age 61.
He spent 100 episodes playing Det. Frank Pembleton on “Homicide: Life on the Street,” where he won a primetime Emmy for outstanding lead actor in a drama series. He won his second Emmy for the FX miniseries “Thief,” in which he played the leader of a heist crew. Mr. Braugher also acted in memorable movies such as “Glory,” Spike Lee’s “Get on The Bus,” “Primal Fear” and “City of Angels.”
Multiple expressions of sympathy followed the news of Mr. Braugher’s death.
“I’m honored to have known you, laughed with you, worked with you and shared 8 glorious years watching your irreplaceable talent,” said “Brooklyn 99” co-star Terry Crews, via Instagram. “This hurts.
You left us too soon. You taught me so much. I will be forever grateful for the experience of knowing you. Thank you for your wisdom, your advice, your kindness and your friendship.”
“Deeply saddened by the news of Andre Braugher’s passing,” wrote Shonda Rhimes via Instagram. “I mourn not only the loss of an extraordinary actor but, more profoundly, the departure of a warm and kind soul. His talent was undeniable, but it was his genuine kindness that truly set him apart. Rest well.”
Bonnie Newman Davis and George Copeland Jr. contributed to this report.