“The highest tradition in journalism is service to the people. Service by informing and by interpreting; service by giving voice to the goals, aspirations and needs of the people. Service by calling attention to injustices inflicted on the people and by demanding an end to these injustices. Service by rallying the indignation and the action of the people when the need arises.
Such has been the role of the Negro press in America, and no other mass communication medium has been more effective in serving freedom’s cause than this Press. For its crusades it has directed its attention to the practical realities in the life of the people it serves.
No one can tell of our accomplishments like we can. No one can interpret situations in our community like we can. It is impossible for people outside our community to properly evaluate how we really feel in too many instances.
The Negro community has always needed a voice, because far too many people fail to ever get our true viewpoint.
For the past half century, the Call & Post has acted as a herald a champion, an advocate and as a vanguard for the Negro community of Ohio.
We pledge, with your continued support, to remain steadfast in this role of Lighting The Way To Freedom.”
Former and most notable publisher of the Call & Post newspapers, William Otis Walker (better known as W.O.) wrote the aforementioned statement as the Call & Post was ushering in its 50th year. As we embark on year 100, we find the same message continues to ring truth. And as we take a look back on the last 100 years in the wake of what’s going on today we find that history has a tendency to repeat itself, and not usually the good parts. Because of this, the importance of W.O.’s message in reference to the Black press and in particular the Call & Post is crucial to how we remind readers of that past while at the same time keeping them from being stuck in it.
The Call & Post was birthed out of a need for change. Through the years, we’ve changed guards from Garrett A. Morgan to W.O. to Harry Alexander to John Bustamante with a constant push forward and occasional setback only to reach our status at the end of a century’s worth of gaining position across the Black and White, red and blue checkered board of Ohio and ultimately being crowned a Don King publication.
The Call & Post story is a unique one chocked full of history, trials, tribulation, error, strain, struggle, progress, success, still to be realized dreams and history in the making. But most importantly, it’s a story about the people. The people who it serves, the people who pick up a copy or renew subscriptions without fail, the people who write it, publish it, sell it and believe in it as well as those who’ve ever doubted that the paper finds pride in proving wrong.
The Call & Post’s inception dates back to the days of The Cleveland Call. This publication was started by Morgan – the then ambitious and now infamous inventor/manufacturer – who published with the purpose of advertising his inventions and a line of beauty products designed for African Americans. A combination of bad editing, loose circulation and poor management led The Call to a foredoomed fate prompting its merger in 1927 with The Cleveland Post. The Post originated as the voice of fraternal society The Modern Crusaders of the World. Its mission was to “present the news as free from any kind of bias based on race, creed or color; to fight for the betterment of all citizenry…” This union created the Call & Post you’re reading right now even though it was dubbed the “marriage of misery.” Debt plagued the paper that was definitely headed for destruction. Then, along came a spider… Well, not literally, but Alabama-born W.O. Walker certainly had a leg or two or eight up on everything Cleveland from politics to business and publishing to community. At the age of 36, he walked into the Call & Post office located at 2319 E. 55th St. near Central Ave. – a building owned by Cleveland Councilman Lawrence O. Payne who would later partner with W.O. to form the PW Publishing Company – and took hold of the reins, steering the once debt-laden publication out of its more than a decade’s worth of financial hardship leading it to drink joy along with eating the fruits of its labor.
W.O.’s reign saw approximately 50 years of growth and progress for the once written off, now heralded news outlet. After building a plant on E. 105th St. at Chester Ave., the Call & Post was one of the best Negro publications in the nation with its own press, stereotyping equipment and an impressive fleet of delivery vans. Circulation soared from the 300 copies weekly it once printed to more than 40,000 and separate editions were added in Cincinnati and Columbus.
The Call & Post would continue to thrive up to and beyond W.O.’s watch that ended with his death in 1981. The baton was then passed to William Harry Alexander. Alexander, a D.C. native, came to Cleveland in 1935 to handle the Call & Post’s circulation. He claims to have delivered papers to distributors by streetcar. Hey, whatever it takes. He held various positions in the paper including business manager and corporate secretary before co-publishing it after W.O.’s death. Alexander would also pass later that decade in 1988, but not before expanding the paper’s reach and giving back as a tool for mentoring other Black news workers across the nation.
After co-publishing with Alexander, John Bustamante – who was also W.O.’s lawyer – gained complete control of the Call & Post following Alexander’s passing. It was under Bustamante’s leadership that the paper did an about face and back peddled leaving the road W.O. had paved and dusting off the one the Cleveland Call and the Cleveland Post once rode. Again, money issues arose and seven years later in 1995 the paper was filing for Chapter 11. It was bankrupt. It lost its press and nearly closed the doors for good.
Enter Cleveland’s son. Famed boxing promoter Don King swooned in and purchased the paper out of bankruptcy in an “Only in America” heroic tale. On Aug. 1, 1998, King temporarily opened the Call & Post’s doors in an office space further down the street from its popular E. 105 and Chester location to E. 105th St. and Elk near St. Clair Ave. before finding its permanent home where it still operates today at 11800 Shaker Blvd. in Cleveland. Associate Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Constance Harper ran operations until her death in late 2014. Harper worked under W.O. as the paper’s Women’s Editor and grew up as a close friend of King.
Don King still serves as owner and publisher of the Call & Post that has just entered its centennial year. Los Angeles native Kenneth Miller serves as executive editor and Kevin Chill Heard is managing editor. Please continue to support the Call & Post during its 100-year celebration and beyond.
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