On August 9, 2019, the day I was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Hall of Fame, my friend and former colleague Terry Manning wrote perhaps the nicest and certainly the most extensive tribute about my career and our professional relationship. It is, of course, also a good piece of writing.
Terry is more than a colleague. He is a friend, someone who has supported me in several of my leadership roles, someone who took leaps of faith and accepted my invitation to work with me in three states, a news man who allowed me to stretch his skills and who never said no to the opportunities I put in his path. He has always had my back and, hopefully, I always had his.
On the morning of my NABJ induction, Terry posted this on Facebook. It is likely the longest Facebook post I have ever read, and it took me about three days to get through it (partly because I was busy at the NABJ conference and partly because his words were so emotional that each paragraph brought tears to my eyes).
If you ever have an opportunity to build a professional relationship like the one between Terry Manning and me, you will be one lucky person in life.
With his permission, here is Terry’s August 9, post:
“Soon after lunchtime today, the National Association of Black Journalists will welcome a special person into its Hall of Fame: Wanda S. Lloyd. She is a former boss of mine. A mentor. A counselor. My mother says she is my guardian angel (if so, she likely earned her wings putting up with my nonsense).
“I remember meeting Wanda in … wow, early 2000? She showed me around Greenville, South Carolina, while I was there interviewing for a job on the copy desk of their morning newspaper. I had already accepted a similar job at the Arizona Republic, but Gannett, the owner of the newspaper I worked for, ‘didn’t want to lose me’ (those were the days when newspapers actually said things like that.)
“Wanda took me out to dinner at a Thai place on Main Street. She was friendly, funny, smart — and she was black. Most of the ‘respectable’ black folks I had seen growing up were educators or preachers. Meeting Wanda was a revelation. She told me of working at USA Today and The Washington Post, but it was a while later before I learned she was at USA Today near the BEGINNING. That she was a pioneering black employee in the Washington Post newsroom. I’d worked for the Gannett paper in Pensacola, but I’d never had a black boss, and here was one right in front of me. I took the job.
“She was a good boss, easy to get along with and supportive of the careers of the paper’s black employees. She never coddled us, though. We had to produce. Newspapers don’t make themselves.
“When she announced a short while later that she was leaving, I walked into her office and said, ‘Well, Moses, what are your Israelite chilllun supposed to do NOW?’ But I couldn’t be upset with her. I’d seen the sideways glances exchanged between the other editors sometimes when she would ask questions during news meetings. There were times I struggled to keep from speaking in her defense, voicing my distaste at their smug superiority, even as she asked questions that others likely had but were afraid to voice. It irritated me. She never seemed to notice, but in time I learned that Wanda doesn’t miss much. Maybe that was just her grace in action, but that wasn’t why she was leaving.
“She was leaving because she had been offered a fantastic opportunity to lead the Diversity Institute at the Freedom Forum in Nashville, Tenn. The institute, on the campus of Vanderbilt University, was set up to help people of color on less-inspiring career paths transition into journalism jobs. When I visited once for a seminar, she gave me a private tour of the building, pointing out the training areas, the lecture rooms that would feature world-renowned experts, the multimedia technology she wanted to populate around the facility. It sounded like something out of The Jetsons, but it made clear to me that she was a person with a vision. A builder.
“Before I left I told her, ‘If you ever get another newsroom, call me.’ And she did.
“I worked for and with her in Montgomery. I learned a lot by watching her every day, handling penny-pinching bosses, irate readers, stubborn subordinates, and critics both internal and external. Everyone was given a fair hearing to express their views in her office. She seemed to embody the command, ‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.’ She was a real leader to the newsroom, and I watched her become a leader outside the newsroom as well.
“To my eyes, the black community in Montgomery seemed a little wary of her at first. Was she a token black editor sent to appease concerns about representation in that Southern city? Or was she ‘down?’? Was she a ‘REAL’ black woman who could appreciate the lives they lived and the challenges they faced? Did she know Montgomery’s conflicted history and was she respectful of it? Was she one of ‘them’ or was she one of ‘US?’ I can’t speak for Montgomery’s collective black community, but under her leadership the newspaper produced amazing coverage of the anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the death of Rosa Parks. She gave voice to local leadership in ways I’m not sure they had enjoyed previously. The ‘Voices of the Boycott’ package the newspaper created is still the best thing I ever worked on.
“But a few years later she left the newspaper business again; she was ‘retiring.’ I use quotes because I’m not sure I ever bought into the idea of someone so driven and productive as Wanda being able to retire completely, and because shortly thereafter she proved my skepticism was justified by announcing she had taken a position as chair of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communications at Savannah State University. She called and asked if I wanted a job in the department, and I accepted.
“I got to see her do her thing in an entirely different realm. Academia is as strange and misunderstood to people who’ve never worked in it as I’m sure journalism would seem to most people. But Wanda Lloyd was still Wanda Lloyd. And she was a great chair. Inspirational, even.
“I know what Wanda has meant to me since I’ve known her, and I have learned she means that much and more to a lot of people who were or are still in journalism and even people outside the field: A champion of diversity of all types. An advocate for excellence in all things. A standard setter. A role model.
“To me, she is a friend.
“And I couldn’t be happier as today my friend is being inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame.”