Fitzgerald (Fitz) Beaver, founder of The Facts, Seattle's oldest African-American community newspaper, died New Year's Day. He was 69. Beaver had been in ill health for some time, and died from diabetic complications.
"Fitzgerald Beaver was truly a pioneering journalist in our region," Seattle Mayor Norm Rice said yesterday.
"As one of the first - if not the first - African-American journalist in the Pacific Northwest, he helped to open doors for several generations of minority journalists."
One of them, Chris Bennett, publisher of a competing weekly, The Medium, worked for Beaver during the late '60s, when political and racial tempers grew hot here.
Mr. Beaver was not a strong advocate for black power but he was concerned about the community, Bennett recalled.
"We had a discussion on how do we cover the riots," Bennett recalled. "One of his concerns was that if you put people's pictures in the paper of throwing rocks and burning buildings, he felt that it would encourage people to do that so they could get their pictures in the paper. Obviously we had a different philosophy in that regard."
GAVE THEM A START
There were also differences of opinion between Mr. Beaver and other Seattle black journalists regarding advertising on the paper's front page, and the overall editorial quality of The Facts.
But Bennett credits Mr. Beaver with giving him his start in journalism at a time when there was "not a lot of opportunity" for African Americans to enter the field.
Ditto for Bernard Foster, another former Beaver protege who now publishes "The Skanner" newspapers in Portland and Seattle.
Foster, president of the West Coast Black Publishers Association, said "if you trace everybody's roots" every black newspaper in the Northwest is a "direct descendant" of Mr. Beaver.
"He was a teacher. He was a vision person. He was a business person. To me, he was all those things. As far as I'm concerned, the city is going to miss him tremendously."
When Foster worked at the paper, Mr. Beaver authored a column called "Right On!" that discussed local and regional issues. In the late '60s, he was a radio commentator.
The Facts' office, with a truck atop the roof, and the outdoor reader board, at East Cherry Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, are familiar landmarks in Seattle's Central Area.
Mr. Beaver was born Jan. 18, 1922, in Martinsville, Va., where he graduated from high school. He attended A & T College in Greensboro, N.C., and later worked his way around the U.S. as a railroad porter.
He worked for the Army as a civilian employee, and during World War II in the Portland shipyards. He started his radio career in North Bend, Ore., and continued radio and public-relations training in Los Angeles.
In 1955, he returned to Portland and became a radio personality known as "Eager Beaver." He moved to Seattle in 1961 to manage radio station KZAM-FM, the first black-owned radio station in the Northwest, and the following year he left the station to establish The Facts.
MAN WITH A MISSION
In a 1983 edition, Mr. Beaver wrote of the paper's mission: "We try to pick up where the daily papers leave off."
Foster recalled that the masthead used to carry a saying by a famous poet, words to the effect: "Any kindness I can do, let me do it now. For I shall not pass this way again."
"He lived that quote," Foster said.
Mr. Beaver was also an ardent golfer who was a founding member of the predominantly African-American Fir State Golf Club 30 years ago.
The longtime Seattle resident had served as president of the Boys Club and worked with the Army, Navy and Coast Guard in minority-recruiting programs.
Survivors include his wife, Elizabeth, and children.
Funeral services are planned for 11 a.m. Monday at the Goodwill Missionary Baptist Church, 126 15th Ave. Following burial at Washelli-Evergreen, a reception is scheduled at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1522 14th Ave.