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Noted Black Journalist Almena Lomax Dies At 95

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(credit: CBS)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Almena Lomax, a civil rights activist and noted black journalist who covered the Patty Hearst kidnapping and the Alabama bus boycott and founded the Los Angeles Tribune newspaper, has died. She was 95.

Lomax died March 25 in Pasadena, according to an obituary from the United Negro College Fund where her son, Michael Lomax, is president and chief executive officer.

Hallie Almena Davis was born in Galveston, Texas, one of three children. Her parents, a seamstress and a postal worker, moved to Chicago when she was 2 to escape the racially discriminatory Jim Crow laws of the South, according to the obituary from the college fund.

The family later moved to California, where Lomax studied journalism at Los Angeles City College but was unable to get a job at a major daily newspaper.

“They were taking them out of there as fast as they learned who, what, when, where. and how,” but “nobody would hire me,” she said in an oral history recorded for California State University, Fullerton in 1967.

Lomax went to work for a local black weekly, the California Eagle, then later had a radio news program.

In 1941, Lomax borrowed $100 from her future father-in-law to found the Los Angeles Tribune, which operated for two decades and at its peak had a circulation of 25,000.

The newspaper had a reputation for feisty and fearless reporting, with articles about the movie industry and Los Angeles police racism. Its contributors were multiracial, including Japanese-Americans Wakako Yamauchi and Hisaye Yamamoto DeSoto, who had been held in camps for Japanese-Americans in World War II and later went on to become distinguished writers.

In 1946, Lomax won first prize in the Wendell L. Willkie Awards for Negro Journalism, sponsored by the Washington Post, for a column that challenged the stereotype of black men’s sexual prowess.

As an activist, Lomax served as a 1952 delegate to the Democratic convention and led boycotts of the black-themed movies “Porgy and Bess” and “Imitation of Life,” because she believed they misrepresented African Americans.

In 1956, Tribune readers donated money so she could travel to Montgomery, Ala., to cover the black bus boycott, a 13-month desegregation effort that ended with the U.S. Supreme Court declaring the segregated bus system to be unconstitutional. Lomax stayed with Martin Luther King Jr. and his family.

Following a divorce, Lomax closed the Tribune in 1960 and moved with her six children to Tuskegee, Ala., in the midst of the civil rights struggle.

Her writings appeared in such magazines as Harper’s and The Nation.

She later returned to California, where she worked for the Chronicle and the Examiner newspapers in San Francisco. She covered the kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patty Hearst and the search for black revolutionary Angela Davis.

In addition to her son, Lomax is survived by a daughter, Mia D. Lomax, of Los Angeles; sons Mark Lomax, of Los Angeles, and Lucius Lomax, of Austin, Texas; four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A daughter, Michele Lomax, a one-time film critic for the San Francisco Examiner, died in 1987 and another daughter, Melanie Lomax, former president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, died in 2006.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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