Almena Lomax, 95, Legendary Journalist, Dies
Necessity being the mother of invention, she left the Eagle and
started the Los Angeles Tribune with $100 she borrowed from her future
father-in-law, Lucius W. Lomax, Sr.
She was a pioneering journalist who founded a newspaper at a most challenging time in the nation's history, especially for a Black woman.
Almena Lomax, 95, who was also a civil rights activists, died on March 25, in Pasadena, California after a brief illness; the family did not disclose details.
Hallie Almena Davis was born on July 23, 1915 in Galveston, Texas as the second of three children, to a seamstress and postal worker parents. The family of five moved from Texas to Chicago to escape racism during the Depression era, and eventually
settled in California.
After graduating from Jordan High School in Los Angeles, the young Almena Davis studied journalism at Los Angeles City College. Many journalist classmates went on to staff Los Angeles’ major daily newspapers, “but no one would hire me,” Mrs. Lomax said in an oral history record for California State University at Fullerton in 1967.
In 1938 she went to work at a black weekly, the California Eagle. Around this same time, she began a twice weekly news and interview program for Gold Furniture on Los Angeles radio station KGFJ.
She was then given an ultimatum by Eagle to choose between the newspaper and the radio program. Necessity being the mother of invention, she left the Eagle and started The Los Angeles Tribune in 1941 with $100 she borrowed from her future father-in-law, Lucius W. Lomax, Sr. The Los Angeles Tribune served the city’s Black population in the 1940’s and ‘50’s, initially as a weekly newsletter, and eventually into a 24-page, five-column tabloid, full of news, lively opinion pieces, book and movie reviews and political commentary.
In subsequent years, Mrs. Lomax became a powerful and well respected African-American journalist. She forged a courageous battle against the Hollywood industry’s racial practices and federal officials over the civil rights policy of the federal government. In 1946 she was awarded first prize in the Wendell L. Willkie Awards for Negro Journalism, sponsored by The Washington Post and named for the 1940 Republican presidential candidate, for a column debunking the myth of the Black male’s sexual prowess.
Mrs. Lomax became the first black journalist to be accredited by the Motion Picture Academy, and led boycotts of the movies “Porgy and Bess” and “Imitation of Life,” which Mrs. Lomax believed “libeled the Negro race.” Active in the Civil Rights Movement, in 1956 Mrs. Lomax was active in the bus boycott, and stayed with Martin Luther King, Jr. and his family in Montgomery, Alabama, producing her highly acclaimed “Mother’s Day in Montgomery: Boycott Leader Serves His Congregation Toynbee, Langston Hughes, Emerson and Jesus Christ, and is Received in Complete Consanguinity.”
Mrs. Lomax helped deliver the liberal vote to Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, father of the present California governor in the 1958 California gubernatorial race. Mrs. Lomax solicited certain promises in return for her support. She requested a pardon of
Caryl Chessman, infamous “red light bandit”, an apology to the Japanese for internment, a state Fair Employment Practices Commission, and increased representation of minorities in appointive state positions. Brown delivered on all of these requests, except for the pardon of Chessman, who was executed in 1960.
In 1960, after her divorce from Lucius W. Lomax, Jr., Mrs. Lomax closed the doors of The Los Angeles Tribune and took her children to Tuskegee, Alabama to live. This allowed her to observe the civil rights struggle up close. Back to her Southern
roots, Mrs. Lomax’s writing continued to flourish, with publications featured in Harper’s and The Nation, as well as many newspapers.
After her return to California, she became the first black person to work on the city desk of The San Francisco Chronicle, and then on to work for their rival paper, The San Francisco Examiner. She covered the turbulent social and political
environment of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Almena Lomax worked actively until her 90s, when she developed eye problems. Her son, Michael Lomax, said in an interview with The Black Star News, “my mother was able to complete a work entitled, ‘Women of Montgomery’, a chronology of four
generations of female family from post-slavery to the present, soon to be published. My mother also left a body of fiction work.”
As to the legacy Mrs. Lomax would like to leave, Michael Lomax said, “It is the large body of work as an active journalist. Part of this legacy is her work in the 1930’s at the California Eagle and the weekly Los Angeles Sentinel.”
Mrs. Lomax was preceded in death by her daughter, Melanie, former president of the Los Angeles Police Commission and a prominent civil rights attorney. She is survived by her children Michael L. Lomax, national president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund of Washington and Atlanta; Mark W. Lomax, an attorney of Los Angeles; Mia D. Lomax of Los Angeles; and Lucius W. Lomax III of Austin, Texas; four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Another daughter, Michele Leslie Lomax, one-time film critic at the San Francisco Examiner, died in 1987.
Halle Almena Lomax personifies the saying that "the pen is mightier than the sword."
In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to the United Negro College Fund.
“Speaking Truth to Empower"
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