I’ve written many tributes about heroic men and women, but this is one that I didn’t imagine I would have to write so soon. It was only a month ago that I presented the Sam Logan Lifetime Achievement Award at the Michigan Chronicle Legacy Awards gala. Little did I know that would be his last major public appearance.
The fact is, Sam Logan’s passing is the end of an era for the Michigan Chronicle.
To say that Logan, the Chronicle’s longtime publisher and founder of the Michigan FrontPage, will be sorely missed is an understatement.
That this towering figure, who means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, will no longer be around a newspaper that was so closely identified with him seems surreal.
That the Michigan Chronicle will from now on operate in the shadows of a man who spent more than four decades at the paper, in the process becoming the personification of this media institution, is a reality everyone at 479 Ledyard now has to face.
Sam Logan was a man who not only transcended generations; he also took part in events that shaped generations, and in some cases created such events.
He understood the marketplace he was operating in and subsequently placed the Chronicle at the center as a leader on almost every issue that’s been crucial to Detroit and this region’s long political and social history as well as that of the nation.
No matter how controversial his positions have sometimes been, Sam Logan stood behind his convictions and did not waver in making his positions clear. Even when people vehemently disagreed with him, he took great satisfaction in knowing that he was making them think.
Such was the man who sat at the helm of a newspaper that has given African Americans a voice and place to express their views on life and death issues since 1936.
When institutions are wrapped around larger than life personalities, it becomes a challenge for those institutions to smoothly continue to function after the exit of those personalities. That explains why many in the community today feel so deeply about the passing of Sam Logan. As someone put it, in a sense Logan was the Michigan Chronicle for decades.
No matter where he stood on the ideological spectrum and using the Chronicle to convey his message, Logan was respected across the aisle. Not everyone liked his decisions, but almost everyone respected him for knowing how to stake his position.
At the Chronicle, we certainly have lost a giant, a friend and a professional colleague whom we enjoyed working with. Logan believed in his staff and knew how to appeal to the best of our skills and intentions. He knew how to utilize the talents and strengths of his team, a hallmark of a great manager.
Logan was seldom in contention with his staff. He was always cool about things and even when he disagreed with us, he was very careful about how he conveyed that disagreement to the rest of the team. The last thing he wanted was to make any staff members feel frustrated and unappreciated.
He knew how to recognize talent and provided an environment conducive to that talent growing.
The Michigan Chronicle was Sam Logan’s home. He lived and breathed the paper.
Whether he was showing up early in the morning or leaving late in the evening, the Chronicle was his world and he was very clear about how he wanted the paper to be perceived in the community.
During our conversations he would tell me that he did not want the paper to be seen as a special interest publication. The Chronicle, in his view, should cater to all sides of the ideological divide.
Notwithstanding its Black identity, Logan always ensured the Chronicle was also talking to people who had traditionally been outside the Black press coverage range.
He grew up in an era when the Black press was the only voice for African Americans and he fully understood the importance of that alternative voice. He pushed the Chronicle to continue that role, and at the same time remained cognizant of the fact that we live in an interconnected world where we are all affected, hence the need for the paper to reach out beyond perceived realms.
Prior to my arrival at the Chronicle as editor, I heard so many stories about Sam Logan. Even those who did not know him had something to say about him.
The first day I walked into his office after accepting the appointment, he embraced me as if we’d known each other for ages. It was like a reunion, and later that evening we went to the Detroit Athletic Club (DAC), one of his favorite spots, for dinner and further discussion.
Throughout the first four months into my tenure, he would invite me to meet him for drinks at the DAC. He would also invite some of his friends and associates to meet me because he wanted them to know who the new editor was and what to expect from him.
Our best performances were a source of great pride for him. I remember when I would come back from scoring big, often exclusive interviews he would savor every detail of how the interview went, leaving out no details. We always knew he had our back and his support was unwavering.
We would spend time together talking about the paper and its editorial positions. He understood that the survival and relevance of any media entity today hinges on its editorial sanctity. He guarded that. As he would always remind me, “Do not let anyone in the world tell you what to write or how to write it.”
So as we mourn Sam Logan’s departure with a great sense of professional and personal loss, we owe it to his legacy to continue in his indefatigable spirit to give voice in the community.
Bankole Thompson is the editor of the Michigan Chronicle and the author of a six-part series on the Obama presidency, including Obama and Black Loyalty published last year. His latest book is Obama and Christian Loyalty with an epilogue wri
tten by Bob Weiner, former White House spokesman. His upcoming books in 2012 are Obama and Jewish Loyalty and Obama and Business Loyalty. Listen to him every Thursday, 11:30 a.m., on WDET 101.9 FM Detroit and every Sunday, 9 to 10 p.m. on the Obama Watch program on WLIB 1190 AM-New York. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.