Saturday, August 29, 2009

Banner writer Robert Churchwell honored with SPJ's Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement

INDIANAPOLIS -- The late Robert Churchwell, the first African-American member of the Middle Tennessee Pro Chapter of SPJ and a pioneer who broke the color barrier for black staffers at major Southern newspapers, was posthumously awarded SPJ's Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement tonight.

The presentation was made at the presidential installation banquet on the final night of the 2009 SPJ National Convention in Indianapolis, where the Society celebrated its centennial year.

Churchwell's widow, Mary, and one of their five children accepted the honor on behalf of the late Nashville Banner reporter, who died earlier this year at age 91. The crowd gave them a standing ovation as the award was presented by outgoing SPJ national president David Aeikens.

Mary Churchwell thanked the assembled crowd and joked that, while she knew her husband loved her, she suspected writing might have been his first love. She recalled their children bringing him pieces they had written for school, and his perpetual first reaction: "Hand me a pencil."

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