Two members of the Cincinnati City Council members are working on plans to pay tribute to a pioneering African American woman.
Councilmember P.G. Sittenfeld and Wendell Young said they will be submitting motion to name a street in Cincinnati after Marjorie Parham, longtime publisher of The Cincinnati Herald, and they expect it to pass. Details as to which street are still being worked out before the motion will be presented to the council.
Young said the idea to name a Cincinnati street after Mrs. Parham crystalized last summer when the National Newspaper Publisher Association held its annual convention in Cincinnati and Mrs. Parham, who was a former officer of the lack press organization, was honored. Young, at that time, presented a city proclamation to her in recognition of her dedication to the Black press and the city.
“At that time, we felt we could do more for Mrs. Parham, and the idea of naming a street after her came about,’’ Young said. “She is most deserving of this recognition, too.’’
In January, Mrs. Parham will turn 102.
As a former publisher of The Cincinnati Herald newspaper, Mrs. Parham covered important issues like the Civil Rights Movement.
Mrs. Parham took over as publisher and editor in 1963 after the unexpected death of her husband, the newspaper’s founder, Gerald Porter. Though she had negligible experience in journalism, she worked overtime to ensure the Herald stayed on firm financial footing.
“I did everything—edited, wrote, took pictures, did the payroll, balanced the books, sold ads, swept the floor,” she once said. “I worked weekends, holidays, late night. I didn’t know what a 40-hour week was.”
Born in 1918 in Clermont County, Ohio, Mrs. Parham graduated from Batavia High School and went on to Wilberforce University. She later took classes at the University of Cincinnati.
Her marriage to William Spillers produced a son, but she was single again by 1946 and took a job as a clerk with the U.S. Veterans Administration in Cincinnati. In 1954, she wed Gerald Porter, who a year later founded The Cincinnati Herald to serve the African American community in Cincinnati.
Her husband died in an automobile accident two years later.
Mrs. Parham did not want to see her late husband’s efforts die with him, and she decided to take over the business. Her son, William Spillers received an early release from military service and returned home to help her run the papers. A family friend, Hartwell Parham, provided business and editorial advice, and he later became Parham’s third husband.
On the editorial side, she strove to make the paper a must-read. “We had a slogan at the Herald, ‘Know the truth,’” she told a gathering of the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce in 2007 when she was named one of that organization’s Great Living Cincinnatians.
In 1982 she became the second African American ever to serve as a trustee of the University of Cincinnati, and also chaired the board of the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio. She was also active in the Urban League, the American Red Cross, and scouting groups. Hartwell Parham died in 1981.
In 1996 she sold the Herald to Sesh Communications, a local company owned by former State Senator Eric, Esq., and Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, Esq., who now publishes the paper.
In 2007, when she spoke at the regional chamber’s award ceremony, she said. “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. 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.”