John Jacob Oliver · 1988

This speech was read at his induction into the Hall of Fame.

Mr. Oliver insisted recently on learning he had been named to the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame that he is not deserving of the honor because he has never been a reporter or an editor. Of course, we disagree.

Retired since 1983 and residing in Indianapolis, Mr. Oliver earned the honor because of his role as former president of the Afro-American Co., a Baltimore-based newspaper chain with circulation in many cities along the East Coast. He continues as chairman of its board.

In this and other managerial roles, he was among those responsible for the Afro-American being able to publish news of interest to blacks, particularly at a time in this country when other newspapers gave little attention to their interests. His main role was to see that the papers were published on time, he recently said.

He recalls that, as late as World War II, general newspapers were quick to print news stories about crimes committed by blacks but seldom if ever printed news about their good deeds and accomplishments. The Afro-American filled this void for blacks and at one time had a combined circulation of 305,000. Today the circulation is less than 100,000.

A native of Brazil, Indiana, Mr. Oliver was a Rector scholar here at DePauw, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in chemistry in 1934.

He started his newspaper career soon after as an apprentice printer at the Afro-American. He worked his way up through various managerial positions and became president in 1976. Like other veterans in the newspaper profession, he has witnessed vast technological changes in the back shop as well as the front shop.

And he was among those who took advantage of the new technologies. He supervised the transition from hot type to cold type and the introduction of offset presses at the Afro-American.

Mr. Oliver is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and has been a deacon of the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church at Baltimore.

Mr. Oliver, we salute you tonight for your role in keeping the Afro-American alive and continuing its tradition as the oldest black newspaper in the country and serving the needs of its readers. It was founded in 1892 by his grandfather, John H. Murphy Sr.


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