Listen: Cecil Newman funeral

MPR’s Kate Williams reports on the funeral of prominent African American Cecil Newman, who passed away on February 8th, 1976. Newman was both a local civil rights leader, active in numerous organizations, and a longtime editor/publisher. Segment includes interviews and remembrances.

Newman moved to Minneapolis from Kansas City in 1922. He founded the Twin Cities Herald about 1927 and published the Timely Digest in 1932. In 1934, Newman became editor and publisher of the Minneapolis Spokesman and the St. Paul Recorder. In 1948, Newman became the first black president of the Minneapolis Urban League. He was also a member of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a union that made major strides against segregation in the 1930s and 40s, before the modern Civil Rights Movement.


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KATE WILLIAMS: Newman was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1903. He came to Minneapolis in 1922. In 1934, he stopped working as a Pullman porter in Bellhop and launched the two weekly newspapers, The Spokesman and The Courier. He headed the papers until his death. Senator Hubert Humphrey was a close friend of Newman's. Humphrey said that Newman was a very practical, yet idealistic man.

HUBERT HUMPHREY: I'm sure you know that I have lost a very dear and personal friend. But we also know that we've all lost a dear and personal friend. And that man is Cecil Newman. Cecil helped me when I needed it. He was my advisor and counselor.

There's a statement that has been repeated so often. It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. And I think of Cecil Newman as a man that was going around constantly, lighting candles, bringing light where there was darkness. He brought the light of idealism. He brought the light of dedication and of immense courage.

And he brought the light of just human decency and justice to those miserable areas of darkness, the darkness of bigotry, the darkness of discrimination, the incredible ugliness and darkness of segregation, and of fear and hatred. Cecil Newman was indeed a real light for social progress.

KATE WILLIAMS: Senator Hubert Humphrey. Newman was active in most civil rights group in the area, including the NAACP and the Minneapolis and Saint Paul urban leagues. He served as vice chairman of the Minnesota Advisory Council of the US Civil Rights Commission among other things. In 1952, he became the first Black in the state named to who in America.

He was a past president of the Minnesota Press Club and a member of the Chamber of Commerce. Hundreds of people were present at the funeral, senators, bankers and the like. A few of them shared their feelings with us. The first, Lillian Warren is a writer for the Twin Cities Courier. You've been in Minneapolis a number of years, and you know Mr. Newman's reputation. Can you share something with us about Mr. Newman?

LILLIAN WARREN: Oh, God. Katie, there's so terribly many things I can say about Cecil, I don't even know where to start. I would have to solidify today that Cecil definitely is or has been the father of this state of Minnesota. He's made a lot of inroads that a lot of us can travel on now.

KATE WILLIAMS: Senator Mondale, can you please tell our listeners a little something that about Mr. Newman.

WALTER MONDALE: Well, Cecil was about the first friend I ever made in Minneapolis. I think he was an unbelievable man. Just a great guy. That's all.

KATE WILLIAMS: Spike, most people might say that you and Mr. Newman were at opposite poles in terms of what you're trying to do in the community and to further Black people's cost. What do you have to say about Mr. Newman?

SPIKE MOSS: Well, I would just praise him. I feel that any Black man that climbed to the heights that Mr Newman climbed to, you have to give all due respect. And you have to realize that he was a soldier in a generation before me. And a lot of us didn't get to witness his sojourn. But I think he soldiered beyond all of his energies. But I had talked to him in the later days. And I knew that we come along the same path. And he shared his wisdom in a little direction for me.

KATE WILLIAMS: Thank you. Spike Moss, Minneapolis Way. Mourners at the funeral of editor and publisher Cecil Newman. This is Kate Williams.


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