Maynard, Robert Clyve

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Maynard, Robert Clyve

(b. 17 June 1947 in Brooklyn, New York; d. 17 August 1993 in Oakland, California), African American journalist, newspaper editor, publisher, and syndicated columnist best remembered for opening and advancing opportunities for minority journalists.

Maynard was the youngest of six children born to Samuel Christopher Maynard, a part-time lay preacher who owned a small trucking firm, and Robertine Isola Greaves. His parents had emigrated from Barbados to the United States in 1919. Maynard attended, but did not graduate from, Boys’ High School in Brooklyn, developing an enduring love for writing from an early age. While Maynard cut school classes, he spent time at the New York Age, a black-owned weekly paper. At the age of sixteen, he dropped out of high school to become a writer for the Age.

In 1956 Maynard moved to Greenwich Village in Manhattan. There he continued to work for the/Ige and became a freelance writer at the age of nineteen. He met such famous writers as James Baldwin and Längsten Hughes, who encouraged him in his literary efforts. He also worked as a reporter for the Afro-American News in Baltimore. At this time, Maynard worked at odd jobs while searching unsuccessfully for full-time journalistic work. Although his freelance work got him a few interviews, Maynard was rejected when his race became known. In 1961 the York Gazette and Daily in Pennsylvania hired him as a police and urban affairs reporter. He worked hard and eventually was as-signed to cover the civil rights movement in the South. In 1966 Maynard was awarded a one-year Nieman fellowship to study journalism at Harvard University. After finishing, he returned to the Gazette to work as a night editor.

Maynard became the first black national correspondent for the Washington Post in 1967. That same year, he wrote a five-part, five-city series on racial unrest, which won him a national reputation. In 1972 he covered the Watergate scandal and, with New York Times reporter Earl Cald-well, codirected a Ford Foundation program for minority journalists at Columbia University. (The Ford Foundation ended its support of Columbia’s training program in 1974 to Maynard’s disappointment.) While continuing to write for the Washington Post, Maynard began to work part-time as a senior editor at Encore, a new monthly. That same year, the Washington Post appointed Maynard to an eighteen-month term as ombudsman of the newspaper and named him associate editor. He remained at the Washington Post for ten years, serving as a reporter and editorial writer. In January 1975 Maynard married Nancy Hicks, a New York Times reporter. Their union produced two sons. Maynard also had a daughter from an earlier marriage.

Maynard was selected to serve as one of three questioners at a 1976 presidential campaign debate between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. The following year, Maynard took a leave of absence from the Post and went to Berkeley, California, where he and Nancy cofounded a journalism program known as the Institute for Journalism Education at the University of California. Maynard served as its chair until 1979. In December 1993, the Institute became the ramkno was the Institute for Journalism Education

The mammoth Gannett newspaper organization hired Maynard in 1978 as an affirmative action consultant. In 1979 he became the editor of the Oakland Tribune, then owned by Gannett, becoming the nation’s first black director of editorial operations for a major daily newspaper. In this post Maynard hired minority journalists, including the first openly gay columnist. In 1983 he bought the Oakland Tribune, becoming the editor, publisher, and president as well as the first African American to own a major metropolitan newspaper. During a decade of leadership, the newspaper won hundreds of awards for editorial excellence as well as a Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for its coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake and its coverage of the Oakland Hills fire.

Maynard began a weekly syndicated newspaper column in the 1980s. His views were broadcast through regular television appearances on This Week with David Brinkley and The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour. In 1992 Maynard suffered a recurrence of a cancer that had first been diagnosed and treated in the late 1980s. That same year the family decided to sell the Tribune to the Almeda Newspaper Group. Maynard returned to work for the Institute and continued to promote the cause of racial equality and equal opportunities for minorities. He also wrote an autobiography, Letters to My Children (1995), and continued to contribute articles. He died at his home in Oakland of complications from prostate cancer at the age of fifty-six. He was buried in Washington, D.C., at the Rock Creek Church Cemetery.

Maynard, a Democrat and a Lutheran, was active in many professional organizations, served on the board of directors of the Associated Press, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the National News Council, the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, and the Pacific School of Religion. He was a member of the Pulitzer Prize committee and received honorary degrees from six institutions of higher learning. Among other affiliations, Maynard was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the steering committee of the Reporters’ Committee on Freedom of the Press.

Although fully committed to journalism, Maynard had other interests. Earl Caldwell called him a “Renaissance man” and noted his love of books, cooking for dinner parties, classic cars, photography, languages, and collecting fountain pens.

A lifelong newspaperman, Maynard was one of the nation’s most respected and successful minority journalists. Noted for his cheerful personality and confidence, Maynard was described by Paul Cobb as being to journalism what Jackie Robinson was to baseball. Throughout his lengthy career, Maynard was regarded as an excellent, influential, and popular journalist. His enduring legacy lies in his dedication to the cause of racial equality and equal opportunities for minorities. Maynard once said, “This country cannot be the country we want if its story is told by only one group of citizens.” His serious, concerned, and determined demeanor complemented his attitude toward his work. Maynard was a charismatic leader, editor, and publisher who cared deeply about the news and the role of the press in society. He believed that newspapers should be used as instruments of social change and reform.

Maynard’s autobiography is Letters to My Children (1995). There is no full-length biography. Useful biographical information appears in Current Biography Yearbook (1986): 352–355, and Contemporary Authors 115 (1985): 295–298. Maynard’s journalistic career is discussed in Jessie C. Smith, Notable Black American Men (1999): 778-780, and Pamela Noel, “Robert Maynard: Oakland”s Top Newsman,” Ebony (June 1985). The most complete obituary appears in the Washington Post (19 Aug. 1993). Other obituaries are in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times (both 19 Aug. 1993) and the San Francisco Chronicle (21 Aug. 1993).