Sunday, November 21, 2010

Legacy Of Burleigh Hines, Defender Reporter, Recalled...

(Sunrise August 26, 1932-Sunset November 8, 2009)
Burleigh Hines, shown in a 1960 photograph, began his career at the Tri-State Defender. He later worked as a print, radio and TV newsman in Chicago. (Photo by George E. Hardin) 
Legacy Of Burleigh Hines, Defender Reporter, Recalled

A television reporter was covering a story about a bereaved mother who had lost her daughter. As he approached the woman’s house he told his cameraman to begin taping as soon as the woman opened the door and he began asking her how she felt and other inane questions – an action that exploited the mother’s grief. Coincidentally, the same cameraman was working later on a similar story with another reporter about a woman whose daughter had died. That reporter told the cameraman to remain in the truck until he was called, while the reporter knocked on the door. The reporter and the woman talked about five minutes; they hugged, and then the cameraman was beckoned.

The reporter in the second incident was Burleigh Hines, who began his career at the Tri-State Defender, moved on to the Chicago Daily Defender and later joined the staff of WBBM-TV Channel 2 in Chicago, where these events took place. The story was told to this reporter in a telephone interview with Denise Hines, Burleigh’s wife, a few days after I belatedly learned about his death. She heard about the incident from the cameraman.

Hines retired from WBBM-TV in 2001 and later moved to Glendale, Calif., where he was living when he died of complications from a fall last November 8. He was 77. Besides his wife, he is survived by six children and several grandchildren.

Hines worked at the Tri-State Defender in the early 1960s, and his time in Memphis is fondly remembered. His name was among those listed on the program held last March 18 at the National Civil Rights Museum marking the 50th anniversary of the Memphis sit-ins. Hines and several other black newsmen – including this reporter – were arrested along with the sit-in students they were covering. He also was honored in absentia at a similar ceremony in March 2004 when sit-in participants were given certificates from the Memphis City Council and the Shelby County Commission.

Before joining the TV station’s staff, where he became the first African-American editorial director, Hines was a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and WBBM-AM 780, an all-news radio station. In 1968 Hines and his co-author, Van Gordon Sauter, published a book, “Nightmare in Detroit: A Rebellion and its Victims,” about the 1967 riots.

Born in Nashville, Hines attended Pearl High and graduated from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., where he studied under Armistead Pride, the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. in journalism. I last talked to him about eight months before he died and we recounted our time working together at the Tri-State Defender.

Denise Hines said, “He just loved being on the street. He would do regular stories – breaking news, what have you – but he always loved doing the personal, the human interest stories.” She attended a memorial for Hines in Nashville as well as another one in Chicago. Mayor Richard Daley signed a resolution for the City of Chicago honoring Hines as a compassionate reporter and complimenting him for his good work.

Referring to the tributes, Denise Hines said, “You tend to forget when you’re with somebody 24-7 in a, quote, normal day-to-day living (relationship) what an impact this person has had on so many lives. It does your heart good (to hear about it).” She said Hines was an avid tennis player and the two of them played together until Hines was in his early 70s. “He was a terrific guy, hard-working, always looking out for the underdog and trying to make things right.”

Jim Williams, one of Hines’ former TV co-workers, noted that Hines had won many awards but said, “His finest achievement was just being the guy who would look for the best in people and make you laugh, no matter what.” Deb Segal, who also worked with Hines, said, “He was one of the true gentlemen who worked in the business. This is a guy who believed in peoples’ humanity and in telling really-compelling human interest stories.”

George E. Hardin worked as a photographer, reporter and editor, and in public relations during a long career before he retired. His column appears every other week on W.E. A.L.L. B.E.

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