Marjorie Parham found her calling through trials, tribulations and tragedy. The strong-willed spirit behind the Cincinnati Herald persevered through it all to produce a well-read weekly newspaper for the African-American community that was delivered on-time for more than 30 years under her stewardship.
“We had a slogan at the Herald, ‘Know the truth,’” Parham says. “We tried to get to the bottom of things and report them as they really were.”
She was born in Clermont County 88 years ago, and after working her way through Batavia High School, Wilberforce University and the University of Cincinnati, she landed steady work with the federal government in Cincinnati, where she worked from 1946-1961.
When she decided to leave her post at the Veterans Administration, the VA insisted she get a chest X-ray. Her retort: “Why are you insisting on a chest X-ray because that’s not what you’ve been kicking for the past 15 years.”
Two years later, in 1963, her husband, Gerald Porter, died due to injuries from an auto accident, leaving her in the role of publisher of the Cincinnati Herald and the Dayton Tribune.
She was forthright in saying her late husband was a terrific newspaperman but not a terrific businessman. As she recalls, “I found myself in a position of being broke, black and female – not a great combination in the early 1960s.” But she also boasted a combination of determination and business savvy that quickly made its mark in the Cincinnati business community. As she says, “The first thing I had to do was convince the Big Boys Downtown that I was the real deal and that I meant business.”
She served as owner and publisher of the Cincinnati Herald from 1963 to 1996, providing a critical voice to the African-American community, disseminating important news but also chronicling the milestones in the lives of average citizens, bringing importance and recognition to the day-to-day happenings within the African-American community.
“One reason why a black paper has been so vital is that, without it, the only kind of news we could get in the newspaper was bad news,” she said. “The satisfaction you get is the ability to present what the major media does not present to the public. I had the privilege of showcasing the good things.”
Early on she decided to focus her energies on the Herald while closing the Dayton Tribune. “I set out to make it work,” she said. “I persevered by working hard. I paid myself next to nothing.”
Before the Herald enjoyed national representation, Parham pounded the pavement on Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue in New York City, calling on national ad firms for their advertising dollars. But no ad was too small, she recalls. “I worked very hard to build up a substantial classified section,” she said.
Despite daunting beginning and several challenges, including an office bombing in the mid-1990s, the Cincinnati Herald never missed a week of publication under her direction. “The thing I’m most proud of is giving young people their first start, people who have gone on to do outstanding things,” she said.
Parham demonstrated leadership nationally and locally, serving as board chairwoman of the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center and treasurer of the National Newspaper Publishers Association. In Cincinnati USA, she served on more than a dozen boards, including the Greater Cincinnati Community Chest and Council, the United Appeal, the Urban League, the American Red Cross, the Cincinnati Chapter of NAACP, the Metropolitan YMCA, the Dan Beard Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the Great Rivers Council of the Girl Scouts, the Better Business Bureau, the University of Cincinnati and as board chair of Cincinnati Technical College.
She received more than two dozen awards, including being named one of the Top 100 Black Business Professionals of America by Dollars & Sense Magazine in 1988, the Trailblazer Award from the National Association of Black Journalists in 1993, the Lifetime Achiever Award from Applause Magazine in 1994, the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame, the YWCA Career Women of Achievement Award in 1994, the Governor’s Outstanding Journalism Award, the Glorifying the Lion Award from the Urban League in 1994, the University of Cincinnati Black Arts Festival Award in 1980, the Cincinnati Journalism Hall of Fame, and was named one of Cincinnati’s Most Influential Blacks over the past 50 years by WCIN in 2003 and One of 12 Women Who Have Influenced The Queen City by The Cincinnati Post in 1974. In 2013, Marjorie Parham was inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame.
In 1996, Parham sold the Herald, but she remains the publisher emeritus, providing editorial and business advice. She remains active in the Cincinnati community as well.
Her son, Bill, passed away in 2007 due to a stroke. She has two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Of the Great Living Cincinnatian recognition, Parham said she is, “mind-boggled. I haven’t been someone who takes myself too seriously,” she said. “I never expected to be named a Great Living Cincinnatian. I’m very surprised, pleased and appreciative.”