Richmond Free Press founders receive City Hall honor and recognition

Black-owned weekly saluted for its ‘leadership, service, dedication and prominence in the community’

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 6/15/2023, 6 p.m.
Jean P. Boone and the late Raymond H. Boone, founders and publishers of the Richmond Free Press newspaper, received recognition …
Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Richmond, Lincoln Saunders, left, and Richmond City Council members, Stephanie A. Lynch, 5th District, second from left, Reva M. Trammell, 8th District, Cynthia I. Newbille 7th District, Council President Michael Jones, 9th District, center, Council Vice-President, Kristen M. Nye, 4th District, Ann-Frances Lambert, 3rd District, Katherine Jordan, 2nd District, Ellen F. Robertson, 6th District, and Andreas D. Addison, 1st District, pose for a group photo with Richmond Free Press managing editor, Bonnie Newman Davis, Jean Patterson Boone, publisher and co-founder, and Raymond H. Boone Jr. , vice president for new business development, following a Richmond City Council Recognition Award presented to Jean P. Boone and her husband, Raymond H. Boone Sr., posthumously, the former editor/ publisher/ founder of the Richmond Free Press for their collective work with their staff in the city through their weekly newspaper founded 31 years ago in 1992. Mr. Boone died nine years ago, June 3, 2014, after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. Photo by Regina H. Boone

Jean P. Boone and the late Raymond H. Boone, founders and publishers of the Richmond Free Press newspaper, received recognition from City Council on Monday night to honor their journalistic contributions to the city.

Council members and the city’s top administrator stood on the council dais to acknowledge the Boones, celebrate their accomplishments and praise the value of the weekly Free Press for Richmond and its community.

The official Recognition Award describes the Boones as a “dynamic duo” who worked “side by side in the founding, editing, managing, and publishing of the Richmond Free Press, a family-owned and operated newspaper, that was established in 1992 to ‘champion equal treatment, racial justice, and economic opportunity for Black people.’”

Mrs. Boone, who became publisher after her husband’s death in 2014, received special mention for the influence she has exerted.

“I appreciate you being a mentor and the strong woman that you have been, not only to me but to so many other women all over the city,” said 8th District Councilwoman Reva M. Trammell, who sponsored the award.

The award, as detailed by the official summary, celebrates the Boones and “their collective community leadership, service, dedication and prominence in the community, and for helping to make our city an even better and more socially and racially just place to live, love, work, learn, play, visit and enjoy family.”

Standing in for Mayor Levar M. Stoney, Lincoln Saunders, the city’s chief administrative officer, called it important to “honor a couple who has done so much for the city” and expressed his delight “for the unique opportunity to be in the presence of a legend.”

Richmond is better, he said, for “the work you and your husband have done to lift up the voices of the Black community. It is an incredible legacy.”

Members of the council took turns offering praise for the Boones and the newspaper.

Council President Michael J. Jones, 9th District, who also is a full-time pastor, de- scribed the Free Press as a crucial outlet for Black churches to let the public know about services and events. “We could always count on the Free Press to be there,” he said

Fifth District Councilwoman Stephanie A. Lynch recalled coming to Richmond 17 years ago and quickly learned how important the newspaper is to the community and how it provided “a voice for those who did not have one.”

She praised the newspaper for “telling the truth and even honestly kicking butt when we needed it.” She said that helped “make us better leaders” and helped “teach the community how to use their voice and tell their stories.”

First District Councilman Andreas D. Addison said that he has followed the advice of former governor and former Mayor L. Douglas Wilder “to read the Free Press” and found it to be an important outlet in reporting “on what is happening in the city” Eighth District Councilwoman Cynthia I. Newbille praised the newspaper for airing “concerns and perspectives on any number of issues,” while 6th District Councilwoman Ellen F. Robertson said that the newspaper has helped council “make the right kinds of policies in so many ways” and influenced the direction of the city.

Third District Councilwoman Ann-Frances Lambert, who once worked at the Free Press handling classified ads, praised the newspaper for “continuing to express history.”

Fourth District Councilwoman Kristen M. Nye thanked Mrs. Boone for “what you are doing for our city’s journalism. You are the voice to speak to my residents, to get the message out. I can never match what the Free Press and other media outlets can do. You can ask those hard questions” and bring “everything into the sunlight where it needs to be.”

Moved, Mrs. Boone said her husband of 45 years sought to build a newspaper that would “be attractive and tell the truth. We as a family believed there was no other alternative.”

Mrs. Boone was joined by the newspaper’s managing editor, Bonnie Newman Davis. Also at Mrs. Boone’s side was her son, Raymond Boone Jr., vice president for new business development for the Free Press, and her daughter, award-winning Free Press photographer Regina H. Boone. Also in the audience was Cathy L. Hughes, founder and board chair of Urban One, the radio and television conglomerate. Ms. Hughes drove from Washington to show her support for the Free Press and the Boone family.

Ms. Boone said the newspaper seeks to hold elected officials accountable and make a difference in the community.

“I believe we are doing a good job,” Ms. Boone said. “Just watch out. We’re still here.”