Last Issue: Tuesday, December 18 2007
A Pioneer in Journalism Dies

By Michelle Williams
Published on 30-Jan-07

Ben Holman in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

Benjamin F. Holman, a former journalism professor and former assistant U.S. attorney general, died Jan. 20 at George Washington University Hospital after an extended illness.

He was 76.

Holman, whom many called Ben, joined the university's Philip Merrill College of Journalism in 1978 as a visiting professor. A year later, he became a full professor and was the college's only African American full professor from 1978 to 1983, according to Reese Cleghorn, journalism professor and former dean of the college. During Holman's tenure, Holman taught classes in newspaper, radio and television. He is credited with creating the college's first sports-writing class and building the foundation to the college's award-winning broadcast program. From 1980 to 1981, Holman served as the college's acting dean and in 2004, was named professor emeritus.

Holman was born in Columbia, S.C. and moved to Bloomfield, N.J. when he was 4, after the death of his father. In 1952, he graduated No. 1 in his class from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in journalism. He then went on to complete graduate coursework in international relations at the University of Chicago.

In the 1960s, Holman became a trailblazer in the journalism world. Holman started his journalism career as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News. In 1962, he joined Chicago's WBBM-TV, a CBS-owned TV station, as the city's first African American in TV news. After anchoring and reporting for WBBM-TV, he was elevated to New York's CBS News in 1963, where he became the network's first African American reporter.

In 1965, Holman was appointed assistant director of the U.S. Community Relations Service during the Johnson administration. Under this role, he founded a media relations program to help the mass media deal with racial problems. He went on to join Washington's NBC in 1968 as a network news producer and he served as an on-the-air-correspondent. In 1969, President Nixon appointed Holman as the assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice, making him the highest-ranking African American in the Department at that time. Holman served in this position for eight years before being reappointed to the same position by President Ford.

"He was such a loyal and steadfast person, who was very open and frank," Cleghorn says. "He was just a standup guy."

Holman is survived by his sister, Lillie Mae Holman of Bloomfield, N.J., nephews and nieces.

To view a video tribute to Holman, visit The Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
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