April 16 - April 22, 2015
THE PRIDE OF 55 YEARS OF BLACK MEDIA IN SARASOTA & MANATEE - The History of TEMPO News
There is a proverb that says, ”He who fails to learn history is doomed to repeat it, “and for many in the African-American community much of the history of the people who have provided a voice in the press long before there was support for such boldness has not been recorded. This article is the first of a series which will run through-out the year exploring the history of the movers, shakers and innovators in our communities.
TEMPO News is the only Black owned newspaper serving Sarasota and Manatee Counties for the past fifty –five years and TEMPO News has created a legacy steeped deeply in history of the Sarasota and Manatee Counties. TEMPO News is based on innovative ideas, determination when doors were closed, demanding fairness and set the bar for working in integrity. The current TEMPO News began fifty-five years ago in 1960 by the late William Fred Jackson who was lovingly known as “Flick Jackson” and “Boo Cooter” to his friends and family. It was Jackson who had the vision to create a newspaper to serve Sarasota and Manatee Counties but Jackson’s vision was not small or ordinary for this paper. The newspaper Jackson created was called, “The Weekly Bulletin” and it was created to enlighten, serve and to be used as a vehicle and means for all people to learn of news, truth, community issues and to highlight the proud people of Sarasota and Manatee Counties, with a special focus on the African-American communities. The Weekly Bulletin was determined to provide the African-American community with a vehicle for a voice for fair, real and true representation in the media.
William Fred Jackson or “Flick Jackson” as he was known began his career as a writer at Booker High School when he was a student there in 1957. Jackson went on to Bethune College (now known as Bethune-Cookman College) located in Daytona Beach, Florida. Although Fred Jackson didn’t graduate from Bethune College, he returned to Sarasota in 1959 with an idea and a plan to begin a newspaper. Jackson called this venture, The Weekly Bulletin in 1960. The only Black owned newspaper before the conception of The Weekly Bulletin was “The Informant”, established in 1925. The Weekly Bulletin was a constant presence in both counties from 1960 to 1994.
In 1986, Jackson experienced financial problems and found he had to sell The Weekly Bulletin to the late Charles Benton and Dr. Ed James II. Benton and James became the principle owners of The Weekly Bulletin with the decision made to continue to allow Jackson to retain leadership and day to day operations but Jackson was to be considered as an employee not an owner. The name of the paper was changed from The Weekly Bulletin to The Bulletin. There were conditions with the sale of The Weekly Bulletin to Benton and James and Jackson had to sign a non-compete clause which prohibited Jackson from creating a newspaper within one-hundred miles of Sarasota and/or a five year time period from the time of the sale.
Jackson was a man with a vision and drive and the conditions of the sale could not stop his desire to publish a paper to serve the African-American communities. In 1987, Jackson began a new paper called, TEMPO Magazine. Jackson was then sued for breach of their agreement by Benton and James and as a result of their legal pursuit to enforce the agreement between themselves and Jackson, Benton and James sold The Bulletin to Fred Bacon. Fred Bacon became the owner and publisher of The Bulletin until it closed in 1994. The lawsuit by Benton and James against Jackson resulted in an injunction being issued against Jackson that prohibited Jackson from publishing TEMPO Magazine. Jackson was not to be deterred and as a result of the legal injunction Jackson sought out a solution to continue TEMPO Magazine.
Jackson sought out the help of his good friend, Dr. John Moton, who was the former Assistant Superintendent of the Saginaw, Michigan School System. Moton agreed to run TEMPO Magazine until the five-year non-compete clause expired. The result of the legal injunction against Jackson allowed Dr. Moton to run TEMPO Magazine. Dr. Moton was a resident in Michigan for six months a year and a Florida resident the other six months in the year. The agreement seemed to be a perfect solution for Jackson but unfortunalty Jackson died in 1989, long before the five years of the non-compete clause expired. Dr. Moton continued to run the TEMPO Magazine after Jackson’s death.
Dr. Moton did not want to continue to run TEMPO Magazine. Dr. Moton was a friend of Johnny Hunter Sr., (current owner, Publisher and Editor of TEMPO). Dr. Moton came to Johnny Hunter Sr. and told Hunter the community needed TEMPOMagazine because the paper was a very valuable asset in the communities. Moton laid out a plan that would allow Hunter to purchase TEMPO Magazine and become the Publisher and Owner. At the time of Dr. Moton’s offer of TEMPO Magazine to Hunter, The newspaper was published monthly.
Moton was insistent that Hunter take the offer and to buy and take over the operation of the paper. Johnny Hunter Sr. officially took over TEMPO Magazine in September of 1990. Hunter made the decision to change TEMPO Magazine from a monthly publication to being published twice a month. Hunter made a bold and calculated business decision in 1993 to change TEMPO to a weekly publication and as with all the business decisions Hunter made, the change proved to be a smart move. TEMPO has spent the last twenty-five years arriving in the hands of the residents of Sarasota and Manatee counties each and every Thursday.
The legacy of William Fred Jackson, aka “Flick Jackson” and aka “Boo Cooter” are so much more than simply having printed a Black paper and to be a news media outlet since 1960. The Weekly Bulletin, Bulletin, TEMPO Magazine and now TEMPO News continues to be the Bridge needed to be a voice for the African-American communities and a continual presence speaking up for the injustices that remain to be spoken of, and righted for all. Perhaps, if TEMPO News ceased to be printed, the voices calling for justice would go unheard and unknown. It’s not boasting when one considers if not for the voice TEMPO News provides and speak loudly to be heard for the past fifty-five years and for generations to come, the news would go back to being slanted, restricted and a small voice for only some.
Hunter states the previous owners of The Bulletin often suppressed vital issues and would limit the information that was printed not only to the African-American communities but to the communities as a whole, even if restricting the information resulted in hampering Sarasota and Manatee Counties to be a better and fair place to live in. Hunter believes that the people, writers, advertisers and those in the community who have served on Editorial Boards, written columns, covered stories within Sarasota and Manatee Counties have proven the effectiveness and power to change with the written word.
Hunter gives much credit to those writers who have long been a part of TEMPO News beginning with the current Sarasota County Commissioner Carolyn Mason, the first African-American female serving as Mayor in the City of Sarasota. Mason wrote the column, “Bits and Pieces” for a long time for TEMPO News. Hunter also spoke fondly of the Reverend Dupree, former Mayor of Sarasota who penned the column, “Concerned Citizen” in TEMPO News.
Other writers for TEMPO News have been the late Jennifer Dixon who was later called Jennifer X who was a Community Activist and wrote articles about the changes occurring in the communities. Judge Charles Williams wrote a column called, “The Law and You.” Jon Susce wrote articles covering the political activities in Sarasota County. Dr. Eddy Regnier wrote a column titled, “Psychology and You.” Among the many writers who have contributed to TEMPO News over the years include, Cynthia Howard, Najia Houston, Bernard Yancy, Hank Battie, Florence Moreland, Ann Davis, and Fredd Atkins. All of the writers and contributors according to Hunter have been an integral part of the success and voice of TEMPO News over the years. There was at one time a regular section in TEMPO News that was called, “Miss TEMPO” and “Mr. TEMPO”. This section was a showcase to feature young people in the community who were considered “Unsung Heroes, Movers and Shakers”.
Hunter continues to be an innovative thinker which at times rattles the boundaries and thoughts of those who would cut off justice to all in our communities. Hunter encourages all young people to make good life choices and to make sure they get a college education and as Hunter states, “Give back to the community.” Hunter sets his sights for TEMPO News to challenge injustice whether they are past or present even if that challenge leads to challenging local organizations such as the NAACP. Hunter spoke of how he believes the current leadership of the NAACP in Sarasota County doesn’t address the injustices which are occurring at the present time and the NAACP does not give a voice to those who need it most.
Johnny Hunter, Sr. continues his quest for fairness and justice by providing weekly news that is timely in Sarasota and Manatee Counties and to go beyond social media and be a constant presence by keeping his finger on the pulse of economic, health, political, social, and religious issues that affect the readers of TEMPO News.
Hunter concluded the interview with these thoughts, “The mission statement of TEMPO News is what I believe in and live by.” The Mission Statement of TEMPO News for the past fifty-five years speaks strongly and clearly of its intent with these words, “The Mission of TEMPO News is to fairly and objectively report news affecting the citizens of Sarasota and Manatee Counties. In reporting the news, TEMPO News will continuously strive to be inclusive of stories covering all elements of our community with a special focus on issues affecting the African-American population. Our primary goal is to improve understanding and appreciation between the races by bridging the social, cultural, economic and political gaps that now exist, eventually creating a more harmonious environment for all our citizens to enjoy. We will do this always reaching out to every segment of our community.
When the question was asked of Hunter if he was affected by those in the community who opposed TEMPO News boldness and commitment to exposing injustice and unfairness, Hunter replied, “All Civil Rights Advocates like Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Gandhi and even Jesus were all labeled as Trouble Makers, but these same people continued on to better the lives of all people.” Hunter continued to explain his vision for TEMPO News was to continue to raise the bar to outstanding Excellence for the paper in every measure and every way.
Those are words well intended to continue the legacy that William Fred Jackson began and Johnny Hunter Sr. in his mission to continue to carry the torch of voice and freedom of the press for the African-American communities and all people.
A TRIBUTE TO COMMUNITY LEADER AND FRIEND – Robert “Smitty” Smith, Jr.
BY MWEZI DAKE...The sound of tears of sadness intermingled with tears of sweet memories are falling in Manatee and Sarasota County with the news of the transition of Robert “Smitty” Smith, Jr., of Palmetto, Florida. The Village is grieving.
Robert Smith, Jr., commonly known, as “Smitty” was a man many times described as “the quietest man in any room” yet his voice was heard clearly through the life he lived. Smitty has been a life-long resident of Palmetto, Florida. He can be best described as the corner stone of the reason why Palmetto and Manatee County are the thriving agricultural hub and powerful business center they are at the present time. Smitty began his life in the shadow of a strong mother, who set examples that he and his siblings follow today. Smitty and his family worked in the fields from the time they were children, going to the fields to pick tomatoes before the sun came up and then would go to school and then come back to the fields to finish the day. Working from sun up to sun down in the summers was a part of the way he and his siblings grew up.
There was no shame in being what was termed, “Migrant Workers” although many times those around Robert and his siblings were taunted and treated with less dignity than others because of the work they did. Robert’s brother, Henry Lawrence spoke of how kids at school would taunt them when they came to school after picking in the early morning hours being labeled, “Tomato Boy” because of the stains on their fingers and clothes from picking tomatoes in the fields. Smitty didn’t see himself as “Tomato Boy” but took the comments and put them aside and turned his time in the fields to analyze and organize his thoughts on how a successful agricultural business was to be run. At the age of 17, he took his experiences of working in the fields and traveling up and down the eastern coast with his family as he grew up following the crops to harvest and turned his childhood and any negativity into a business plan to success.
Robert knew what worked and what didn’t when it came to every aspect of the agricultural business and would become known as “The Robert Way”. He believed the way to prosper, to be successful and get ahead in life was based on principles he lived by. These principles were to treat others how you would want to be treated, to be honest and nothing but honest and give to others.
Robert began a contracting business obtaining contracts for hauling fruit to the packinghouses all over the State of Florida and within a short time his contracting business became one of the largest contracting businesses in the state and across the country. He became the first Black –owned contracting business and Robert’s company employed thousands of people in Manatee and Sarasota Counties as well all over the State of Florida. Robert worked with major companies such as Tropicana, Donald Duck Orange Juice and many more. Robert’s business had a long relationship with Albritton Fruit and worked with them for over forty years. Robert’s businesses were family run and his children were a large part of running the day to day operations. Robert bought land and had crops planted. The business began at the field, crops were picked, hauled to the packing houses, which were owned by Robert and then sent out all across the United States. Robert Smith was responsible for the employment of thousands of people in Manatee and Sarasota County as well as being working with other companies to find them the skilled help to help care for crops, harvest, haul, pack and ship produce all across the country.
Smitty can be described as a Man who walked quietly and carried a big Heart. He spent thousands of dollars each Thanksgiving season to purchase food, a four-course meal for local residents and fed two to three hundred people each season at his home and at the family owned restaurant located in Palmetto. Smitty and his wife as well as his mother, aunts and other family members did the cooking and served each person as a guest and with great respect. He didn’t ask for thanks or recognition for this service and labor of love. Smitty considered the meal at the time of the season for giving gratitude and thanks as his way of showing his gratitude to the Creator and God Smitty loved and for the people he loved in his community.
Long-time friend since childhood, Col. Mickey Presha had this to say about Smitty. “He was one of the best friends a man could ever have. He loved his wife and children and all those around him. He was always there for everyone. Smitty had an unusual acumen as a businessman, which began as a boy and in his childhood, he started a contracting business. Men would ask Smitty when he went in to do business with the packing houses, “Where’s your daddy?” because it was obvious he was a kid. While in high school Smitty started a family business that provided hired harvesting laborers for the crops and packinghouses. He went on to buy a packinghouse and other businesses such a convenience stores as a young man. Smitty was ready to be successful. He was always ready, even-tempered and low key. I knew Smitty for over sixty years and I never saw him lose his temper, he was very focused. When there was a job to be done, he got it done in a timely manner and the job was done well. If you were fortunate enough to know Smitty, then your life was changed. He loved Rose; they were married for fifty years plus years. They were always close. Rose and I grew up as children and friends. Smitty was only a few years older than I am but he took the time and was a mentor to me. Smitty was the reason I am the businessman I am today, he inspired me at a young age. The rest of us had to go to college and learn how to do it (run a business) but with Smitty this came naturally. It was phenomenal to see what he did as a young man. Smitty inspired a lot of us. He was the greatest friend. If you had Smitty as a friend, you had a friend for life, unconditional love and friendship. He touched a lot of lives. Anyone who came into contact with Smitty was a lucky person. I’m at a loss to think of a day without my friend.”
Henry Lawrence, brother to Smitty found it hard to speak of his beloved brother. “It (death) seems unreal. Smitty was my mountain. He was my brother, my friend and the one person who loved me unconditionally. When we were young Smitty watched over me. He encouraged me. Smitty wouldn’t have anything but the best for me and Smitty made sure that I worked hard, was honest and treated other people well. Smitty showed me how to do these things by the example of the life he lived, even as a kid. I don’t think people realize that Palmetto was in a large part built by the business that Smitty started and employed thousands of people over the years. At one time Smitty was the largest employer in Manatee County. I’d like to see Smitty’s contributions recognized. Smitty stayed at home and it was because of his sacrifices over the years I went on to college and then to the NFL. I am the man I am today because of my brother’s love and affection for me. Smitty loved people and helped so many, so quietly and behind the scenes. I don’t know what I’m going to do without Smitty in my everyday life. People don’t understand, Smitty was my rock, my mountain, the one I go to, my mentor, my brother, but most of all, Smitty is my best friend, unconditionally, the best friend I will ever have.”
Charles Smith, Manatee County Commissioner is the son of Smitty. Charles described his father, “ God knows my dad is the best gift I had the privilege to get. I had the greatest father any man could have. This is (death of father) the darkest day of my life. There are so many things about my father’s life that are good, I couldn’t even begin to say them all. I know this one thing, I’m not worthy to walk in my father’s shoes. No matter what I do, no matter how much good I do, it won’t fill the shoes my father walked in, I won’t be worthy of walking in his shoes. My father had a big heart. He loved people, his church. My father loved to laugh, to sing, loved his family and his wife. My father lived through the accomplishments of his children by setting an example we all could follow to success. He loved all of us. My father treated his sons and daughters well. He meant what he said and said what he meant. He treated us well but we knew not to cross him and we didn’t because we knew he loved us. My father was one of the kindest men I have ever known. He was forthright and honest. My father employed thousands of people over the years and he took care of his employees, treated them fairly and equally. My dad and mom have been married for over fifty years, what more is there to say? My dad loved my mom and us. My dad adored my mother. My father taught us how to treat people , he taught us common sense and business sense. When my brother Harold became City Commissioner of Palmetto and I was elected to Manatee County Commissioner, I believe that was the tip of the iceberg for my father. He was so proud of us and that there were two of us involved in government service. My father taught his children to speak for people that didn’t have a voice. My father said to never leave a table of conversation until all the people at the table understood what each one was saying and they were in agreement. He taught me to think before I speak. Take a breath before I speak and not to judge the people I was speaking to, be conscious of others.” Charles went on to say, “ I can deal with any issue from East Bradenton to Palmetto to Sarasota because my father taught me all people are the same and whether you are speaking to a millionaire or a man without a dime, treat people with respect. The greatest piece of advice my father gave, and he lived by was to give to others. He instructed me not to worship money, but the more you give to others, the more good that comes into your life. He was right. I am excited that I had the opportunity to be his son. I haven’t had a dry eye since the day he passed from my life. I don’t know what I’m going to do without my best friend and the unconditional love my father gave me every day of my life except to live like he did, to do right and to live right. I am not worthy to walk in his shoes but I will follow in my father’s footsteps.”
Harold Smith, City of Palmetto Commissioner and son of Smitty spoke of his father as if he had been the air he breathed and gave him life. Harold said, “ My father showed me the way a man was supposed to live and he lived that way every day of his life. My father treated all people the same, fairly and honestly. I went away to college after high school but after a couple of years I came back home because I knew the best education I could receive was going to be from my father on how to become a business man and the best man I could be. My father helped people, people of all color, race and treated the people with respect. My father gave me great advice when he told me, “Be good to people, treat them honestly for a person will do anything for you if you treat them with respect and with honesty. These words and the life and example my father lived rubbed off on me. A lot of people can tell you their stories of how my father made sure they were fed, employed, bought cars, gave to churches and organizations but what they will tell you was the most important thing was the way my father treated them with respect and honesty. I will miss my father and don’t know what I will do without him.
Tyrone Smith, owner of ‘A Touch of Class’ located in Bradenton and son of Smitty described his father as “A man of his word and a man who loved unconditionally.” Tyrone went on to say, “ Well, all my father did in his life was to try to help others. My father never did think of himself first or put himself first. My father not only raised us up but my father raised a whole lot of other people all over. My father fed, housed, got work for people of all ages, race no matter where they were in life. I’ve never met anyone like my father, a man who helped so many without asking anything back for himself. What my father gave out besides thousands of dollars in checks to charities and food to people was the honesty, respect and caring way he dealt with people. My father was always there to give me advice, support me and it seemed that my father had the right answer for any question I asked him. My father didn’t judge me but gave me sound advice and led by example. I don’t know what I am going to do without his constant presence in my life but I know now that my father is in a place where he is taken care of and to see the reward of the life he lived by taking care of so many, so unselfishly. My father could make masses of people who didn’t like each other and get the group to listen to each other and all come together, work together and learn to respect each other. My father’s friends were friends for life and all of them loved and respected my father. Johnny Hunter, Sr. was a man my father loved and respected as well as Col. Presha. They were childhood friends and continued the friendship all through their lives. My father was such a good man I guess the best thing I can do to honor his life is to live a life of good reputation. My father had a great reputation and his name was well spoken of because when my father gave his word, his word was his bond. What more can I say? My dad was a good person in more ways than I have time to tell you. I’m going to keep my father’s good name alive in all that I do. I love my dad and I know that his love for me and all of his kids was unconditional. What a gift that is. I don’t know that I will find a love like that again in my life. When I realized that my dad was gone, it hit me like a ton of bricks. We are going to carry on my father’s legacy and the love he so freely gave to us. “
Johnny Hunter, Sr., Publisher of TEMPO News and long-time friend of Smitty, said this about his friend, “ Smitty was special person. He was one of the most positive, upbeat and honest individual persons I have ever known. I consider it a pleasure and honor to have known and considered him as my friend.”
We all are sure when Smitty transitioned from this earthly life he was met with the sound of the Master saying to him, Well done my good and faithful servant, enter into your rest.
The consensus of every person who knew or had contact with Smitty described him in the same words and phrases over and over, kind, generous, loving, honest, smart in business, intelligent, leader, which can only be the result of a life filled with acts of kindness and integrity Smitty lived. Smitty spent over fifty years with the wife and love of his life, Rose. Smitty and Rose’s love was described by a close friend as his eyes lit up every time Rose walked into a room and even though life may have had some hard times, as do all of us experience, Smitty and Rose stayed close and in love and he loved his Rose.