The news of Constance Harper’s death has left our community in shock. As friends and family struggle with their loss, the community at-large is reeling over the realization that one of its giants has fallen.
After sudden heart complications while attending Central State University’s alumni homecoming, she remained in a Dayton hospital in guarded care until her passing Friday night. She was 81 years old, just a few days short of reaching her 82nd birthday this upcoming Tuesday, Oct. 28.
The name Constance D. Harper has become synonymous with journalism throughout Ohio and beyond. Journalism has been a large part of her life’s work for more than 60 years.
Connie, as she was known, was the associate publisher and editor-in-chief of the Call & Post Newspapers, serving the Black communities throughout Ohio.
Connie saw her current time as editor as an extension of lessons she learned working under the watchful eye of W.O. Walker, one of the newspaper’s legendary former publishers.
Throughout the years, Connie has become inseparably connected to her column “Constantly Yours,” her signature piece that appeared in the Call and Post.
In one form or another, her “calling” to serve as part of the media has guided her illustrious career with passion and integrity. Her peers in the realm of local journalism are few and far between. The respect she has garnered from the numerous mentees and co-workers her career has brought her in contact with is well-deserved. The many lives she touched as a community advocate and media representative are immeasurable.
Born and raised in the city of Cleveland, Connie was a product of the Cleveland public school system, and that is where she began her career in journalism and her love for the printed word. She was the editor of both her junior and senior high school newspapers, the Alexander Hamilton Federalist and the John Adams Journal. A graduate of Central State University, she served as the editor of the college paper and school yearbook for all four years. She has done graduate study at the University of Chicago.
While teaching in Cleveland public schools, she was the teen editor for the Cleveland Courier, a subsidiary of the Pittsburgh Courier. She left her position as a Cleveland school teacher to become the women’s editor of the Call & Post and later became the city editor. She was selected as one of two journalists to complete a fellowship in urban studies at the University of Chicago. She returned to Cleveland to direct the women’s committee for Mayor Carl B. Stokes’ re-election campaign.
Her next stop was Washington, D.C., as the public affairs officer for the government-funded Leadership Institute for Community Development. While in Washington, her commitment to public service led her to volunteer for Africare, a nonprofit advocacy organization for the nations and people of Africa.
One of her most indelible career paths took her to New York City to serve as vice president of Don King Productions, traveling across the U.S., Canada, the Philippines, Africa and Europe promoting championship fights.
While working as part of Don King’s promotion and production team for the historic Jackson’s Victory Tour featuring Michael Jackson, Connie always recalled fondly working community outreach with the Rev. Al Sharpton.
On Nov. 7, she will be honored (now posthumously) by the Press Club of Cleveland and inducted into their Journalism Hall of Fame. Connie was humbled by the acknowledgment and looked forward to being in attendance.
In a career of service to her community, Connie always worked to assist the less fortunate. She was passionate about her immediate and extended family; her alma mater, Central State; and her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Inc. The latter honored her with the Ohio Image-Maker Award. She was a member of the Greater Cleveland Delta Foundation Life Development Center.
Her station in the community has been elevated numerous times by other organizations that valued her worth: Kaleidoscope Magazine recognized her as one of the Women Who Give Back; National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa, Gamma Rho Chapter, presented her with its Good News Award; Northern Ohio Live magazine named her one of the most influential women in Northeast Ohio; and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Zeta Omega Chapter, honored her as Citizen of the Year.
As a member of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, Connie served in a number of ministries. She was the vice president for governmental affairs on the Vocational Guidance Services’ board of directors. She was a former NAACP Branch Board member and she served on the local Urban League board.
She was a graduate of the Leadership Cleveland Class of 2004, and served as the associate publisher of the inaugural “Who’s Who in Black Cleveland” in 2004. She remained at the helm of Cleveland’s “Who’s Who” for eight years.
In 2014 she received the Diversity in Media Distinguished Leadership Award from the Kent State University School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Trailblazer Award from the Cleveland Chapter of 100 Black Men of America.