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Toledoans and family said good-bye to trailblazing American journalist William A. Brower, Sr., yesterday during a sentimental 90-minute ceremony at All Saints Episcopal Church near downtown.
Mr. Brower, one of the first African-Americans to work at a major daily newspaper when he was hired by then-Blade publisher Paul Block, Jr., in 1946, died May 28 in Washington. He was 87.
Community leaders and friends who had come to respect Mr. Brower's work in various capacities at The Blade, including associate editor, praised him before and after the ceremony.
Mr. Brower's 50-year career at The Blade included numerous honors and awards, including being nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and winning the National Association of Black Journalists' Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996.
The Pulitzer nomination came for his 1951 series "Fifteen Million Americans," about the living conditions of blacks in segregated America. He retraced his steps for a 1972 series on race relations entitled "Black America - 20 years later."
Mr. Brower completed his newspaper career reporting on race relations across the nation in a final series in 1996, "America in Black and White," with former Blade reporter Eddie B. Allen, Jr. The 1972 and 1996 series also won various awards.
John Robinson Block, current publisher and editor-in-chief of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, said Mr. Brower leaves a legacy of consistency and professionalism that he will always remember.
"It was a very moving service," Mr. Block said. "We're flooded with memories of Bill by the hundreds. He was one of those people who was always around, even before I started to work at The Blade. He is certainly one of the old guard. He spent most of his working career at The Blade and I don't know if that happens anymore."
William Brower, Jr., the son of Mr. Brower, said he felt it was fitting to have the funeral services and burial in Toledo. Mr. Brower's wife, Louise Brower, died Jan. 9, 2003, and is buried in Toledo.
"I lived here for 30 years before I left, but Toledo will always be home," Mr. Brower, Jr., said. "I thought the service was beautiful and appropriate. Toledo was so much a part of his life and my mother's life. It's comforting to know that people who have had a professional and personal relationship with him have been so willing to share those thoughts with my family."
The Rev. John R. Kimble, rector at All Saints, told attendees that the funeral service was the same as the one performed for Mrs. Brower, with one exception. The electrical power inside of the church went out shortly yesterday after Father Kimble began his homily. The services continued without interruption.
Toledo Mayor Jack Ford said he remembered Mr. Brower as "a fortress" and a mentor.
"He would call it like he saw it," Mr. Ford said. "He knew he was a national trailblazer, so he was a professional at all times. He would help me early on" in my career, said the mayor, believing Mr. Ford might go farther than most.
"He would hint that I would one day break through to the mayorship," Mr. Ford said. He did, as Toledo's first black mayor.
Occasionally, Mr. Ford said Mr. Brower would offer him some "paternal advice" and, after he won the 2001 mayoral election, gave him a warning: "He said, 'You're going to be held to a much higher standard than anyone earlier,' " Mr. Ford said.
Lucas County Common Pleas Court Judge Charles Doneghy called Mr. Brower "just a very hard-working individual. He was rather stern about issues he felt needed to be addressed. He was dedicated to service and to open up opportunities for those less fortunate, particularly those in the minority community. He remained very active in the community."
C. Allen McConnell, a Toledo Municipal Court judge, praised Mr. Brower for being "a very, very forceful voice in the community" for over 30 years. "He made sure things were done properly. The African-American community felt touched. He wrote so passionately about so many issues."
All three men, attending the services at the church on Pinewood Avenue yesterday, said they will fondly remember their association with Mr. Brower at Alpha Phi Boul fraternity meetings.
Cliff Quinn, a former Blade police reporter, said Mr. Brower was in charge of the Sunday edition of the newspaper when he was assistant managing editor from 1971 to 1976. "That was a tough job for anyone and you had to do without any supervision," Mr. Quinn said. "He did a great job and he had a lot of respect from everyone."
Joseph C. Sommerville, a retired professor at the University of Toledo and a family friend, said after the service that Mr. Brower set high standards and goals for himself, and he was dedicated to his family.
The body was entombed at Toledo Memorial Park, Sylvania.
Blade political writer Fritz Wenzel contributed to this report.
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