Lester H. Brownlee
90, died Nov. 21
chicago daily news reporter, columbia college professor
Lester H. Brownlee, 90, was the first African American inducted into the Society of Professional Journalists and the first black president of the Chicago Headline Club.
Born in 1915, Brownlee was a student at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University when he became the first black man inducted into the Society of Professional Journalists. He started out as a reporter for Ebony magazine, and later wrote for the Chicago Defender. In 1950, he became the first black reporter to join the Chicago Daily News, where he also became a features writer. Eight years later he joined the staff of the Chicago American.
Brownlee joined the journalism faculty of Columbia College in the late '70s, and initiated a course of study on covering urban affairs. At Columbia, he developed a reputation for mentoring young journalists and promoting ethnic diversity in newsrooms. He served as president of the Chicago Headline Club from 1989 to 1990, and in 2001 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Society of Professional Journalists. In 1993, he was inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame.
Not one to limit himself to newspapers, Brownlee also worked for Chicago radio stations including WBBM and such TV stations as WLS-TV, where he earned an Emmy Award for editorial writing in 1975. Following his retirement in 2004, he was designated Columbia College's first professor emeritus.