Last Updated on November 23, 2006 by Paulette Brown-Hinds
Special to the NNPA from the New Pittsurgh Courier
Phyllis T. Garland, first female tenured professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and a former writer and editor at Ebony Magazine and the Pittsburgh Courier, died of cancer Nov. 7 in New York City. She was 71.
Garland, a native of McKeesport, taught at Columbia University school of Journalism for more than three decades. Phyl, as she was known, taught Cultural Affairs Reporting and a Writing class, and was a Master’s Project advisor, and served as the administrator of the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia.
Garland began her career in 1958 as a reporter and then editor for the Pittsburgh Courier. Throughout the years, she covered issues relevant to Blacks, including the March on Washington, the Civil Rights Movement, discrimination in housing, education, labor, and the arts. She then worked at Ebony Magazine as an assistant, and then associate editor from 1965-69, and went on to become the New York editor of Ebony in 1971.
Garland was born Oct. 27, 1935 in McKeesport, the only daughter of the late Percy A. and Hazel Hill Garland. She graduated from McKeesport High School and Northwestern University.
Her mother, Hazel was one of the first Black women to edit a nationally circulated publication. Hazel Garland, who served on the Pulitzer Prize selection committee in 1979, was editor in chief of the Pittsburgh Courier from 1974 to 1977. She had been with the Courier since 1943 in a variety of jobs, including columnist, consultant and writer.
Despite that impressive lineage, Phyl’s first love, however, was music. She was a connoisseur of Black music, and had an enormous collection of jazz, soul, and R&B recordings. For 20 years, she was a contributing editor for Stereo Review, and was the author of The Sound of Soul (1969), a comprehensive book on Black music.
Courier Managing Editor Lou Ransom described Garland as a champion of the Black press, and a good friend.
“She was always someone I could confide in,” said Ransom, who worked with Garland’s mother, Hazel, at the Courier. “She was never my teacher, but she, and her mother, were my mentors. When I went to Johnson Publishing Co. (to work with Jet Magazine), she told me all the things to watch out for.”
“When I think of Phyl, I think of her generosity with her time, her knowledge,” said Jet Magazine Senior Staff Editor Clarence Waldron, a student of Garland’s at Columbia. “As a student, I was always impressed with the stories she would share about interviews with people like Josephine Baker and Duke Ellington. Being a Black student, to have someone like Phyl around made my days much easier. I wanted my career to be a lot like hers,” said Waldron, who is also an adjunct lecturer at Northwestern University, “and the fact that I’m doing a lot of those things, here at the same company where she worked, I’m proud of that.”
Columbia School of Journalism Dean Nicholas Lemann described her as “a major presence in the life of this school for decades, and a woman of tremendous love, passion, spirit, and commitment to all the best things in journalism. Hers was a life wonderfully well lived, and that is something for us to bear in mind as we mourn her passing.”
When she retired from the school in 2004, she was presented with a scroll, which described her as someone with “affection, respect and advocacy for students…a deep love of music and its interplay with culture…and a fierce appreciation of African-American artists and the essential role of the arts in American culture.”