Mr. Earl Calloway passed on Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at the age of 87. He was an accomplished columnist, fine arts journalist, Chicago powerhouse, and my mentor and friend.
He was born October 4, 1926 in Birmingham, Alabama. He graduated from Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University and pursued special studies at Chicago State University and Governors State University. He will most commonly be remembered as the Fine Arts Editor and a columnist for the Chicago Defender newspaper. He joined the paper in September 1963, at the height of the paper’s civil rights movement coverage. Prior to joining the newspaper, he worked for the Negro Press International, the Associated Press and the Chicago Courier. He was also a founding member of the National Association of Black Journalist Chicago Chapter.
He not only was a prolific writer, he was an artist himself with great singing abilities. He was a tenor and performed in Puccini operas across America as well as in magnificent operatic productions such as “Aida,” “Carmen,” Ordering of Moses,” and “Die Fledermaus.” He is the founder of the Philharmonic Youth Choir and Oratorio Society of Shiloh Seventh Day Adventist Church and the organizer of the Black Aesthetic Festival (now known as the Black Creativity, hosted at the Museum of Science and Industry and spotlights African-American excellence in science and technology.) He was a busy man. When he wasn’t doing the aforementioned, he hosted “Artists’ Circle,” a weekly radio program on WGCR-FM.
Over the years, he garnered numerous awards including the Kuumba Workshop Media Award, the Cultural Citizens Foundation for the Performing Arts Lifetime Achievement Award, the Charles P. Browning Journalism Award and the Chicago Defender’s Newsmakers Special Tribute. Those are all great accomplishment and he should be recognized and applauded for ALL of his achievements.
I knew a more personal side of him though. He was a kind and inspirational man with a smile of gold and an infectious laugh. I first met him while I was attending Columbia College Chicago in the mid 1990’s. I was majoring in Arts, Entertainment and Media Management, and minored in Journalism. I needed an internship as part of my graduation requirements and I went to the Chicago Defender, which was located at the now abandoned landmark building located at 2400 S. Michigan Avenue (1960-2006.)
When I met Mr. Calloway, we hit it off immediately. We had so many things in common including a crazy sense of humor, writing, music and appreciation for the arts. I explained that I wanted to intern with him and he agreed. I spent the next two years getting the best real life experience from a living legend. He told me stories of him meeting and interviewing people I admired and honored. He knew them personally. He took me under his wing, almost like a son, and exposed me to the fantastic world of Arts Entertainment. I attended events at the Chicago Sinfonietta, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, movie premieres, concerts, as well as art and fashion shows. He taught me how to dive into the artistic creation to its core and then how to recreate it for the reader. At the time, I was also a recording artist and he took my “house” song, Mind Groove, and wrote an astounding review on it, which motivated and encouraged me to continue pursuing my dream.
We became more than mentor and mentee, we became family. After I graduated college in 1998, we continued a friendship that lasted until the day he died; 20 years. In the meantime, many life events took place and Earl was there. When my father died in 2003, it was a devastating blow to me. Earl published a feature article in the Chicago Defender profiling my Dad’s life and I was able to take that to the funeral to really honor his life. That’s the kind of man Earl Calloway was. Years would go by before I would see him again and we sort of lost touch, but each time that we would bump into each other, usually on the Redline train, we would go out to lunch and catch up on each others’ life.
I hadn’t spoken to him in the past 3 years and I was planning to go see him soon to see how he was doing. I heard that his health was failing and I really wanted to see him. I also wanted to update him on my life and inform him that now I’m an Entertainment writer for N’Digo and Soul Train. He would be so proud of me. But, I never got that chance, unfortunately.
On Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 4:30 am I was watching the news, and his picture flashed on the screen. I dreaded what was about to come out of the news reporters mouth. The reporter stated my worst fear, “Chicago Defender Entertainment Editor Earl Calloway died today at the age of 87.”
My heart dropped to the floor.
Earl Calloway will always be remembered as a great Entertainment Editor and his accomplishments to black journalism, and journalism as a whole, is undeniable. His passing is part of an end of an era of journalist. We lost a powerful voice for black America, but I lost a friend. I will miss you Earl. Rest in peace my buddy.
Until we meet again, here’s YOUR feature article.