Journalist was Renown as Collegiate Educator; Set Path for Diversity Strategy
Washington, D.C., (October 23, 2013) – The National Association of Black
Journalists (NABJ) mourns the loss of former NABJ member Lee Thornton,
an award-winning journalist, news producer and educator. Thornton died
on September 25 after an illness. She was 71.
"Lee Thornton was a mentor to many of our NABJ members. As a journalist,
she broke important racial and gender barriers. As an educator, she
trained many students who have gone on to highly successful careers in
our industry,” Dedrick Russell, NABJ Vice President-Broadcast, said.
Thornton, or "Dr. T” as she was known, was the first African-American
woman to cover the White House for a major television network, in CBS
News. She also was the first black host of NPR's flagship program "All
Things Considered." After leaving the newsroom, Thornton earned a Ph.D.
and became an educator. She taught journalism at the School of
Communications at Howard University and later the Philip Merrill College
of Journalism at the University of Maryland, where she was an interim
dean of the program.
Dr. T was one of a kind, as writer, producer, host and creator for
"Front & Center,” the award-winning series of in-depth interviews
with journalists produced by the Merrill College cable station, UMTV.
The program was aired locally, nationally on Research TV and
internationally on WorldNet.
Thornton came to the Merrill College in 1997 and quickly became known
for her thorough, caring manner with students. She taught television
news reporting and production, as well as documentary filmmaking. Her
Merrill College students received more than 80 national and regional
awards and citations.
Thornton served as the first Eaton Broadcast Chair. When former Merrill
College Dean Tom Kunkel left to take the presidency of St. Norbert
College in 2008, Thornton served as interim dean, becoming the first
female dean of the college and the second African American. In that
role, she oversaw the development of the college’s strategic plan and
guided the college to distinction as a Carnegie Knight News 21
journalism school, one of only 12 so designated.
Members of NABJ and its Board of Directors will join many others at a
memorial service for Dr. Thornton scheduled for Thursday, October 24 at
Memorial Chapel at the University of Maryland at 3 p.m. EST.
An advocacy group established in 1975 in Washington, D.C., NABJ is the largest organization for journalists of color in the nation, and provides career development as well as educational and other support to its members worldwide. For more information, please visit www.nabj.org.