Richmond Free Press founder Ray Boone dies of cancer

Ray Boone (Source: Richmond Free Press)
Ray Boone (Source: Richmond Free Press)

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Ray Boone, the influential founder of the Richmond Free Press and member of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame, has died of cancer.

The Suffolk-native passed away Tuesday around 9:10 a.m. at his home, according to his family. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the day after Labor Day.

Boone graduated from Boston University with a degree in journalism before getting his master's degree in political science from Howard University. He later spent nine years teaching at the university, before founding the Free Press in 1992.

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Over the next 22 years, the weekly newspaper won numerous accolades and Boone was lauded for his work.

He was active in shaping the dialogue and discourse in Richmond, whether sparking a plan to light up the city during VCU's Final Four run or sheltering the Occupy Richmond protesters after they were evicted from several public parks.

More recently he made headlines by saying the Free Press will no longer use the name Redskins, instead referring to them as Washington's professional football team.

"We decided that because it is an insulting name, it is an outrageous name and as a city we should not become acclimated to the outrageous," said Boone at the time.

His family said Boone kept repeating how he "loved everyone" as his health declined.

Boone lived next door to Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones, who called him an "integral part of our city."

"His stalwart support for the black community, for economic justice and fairness paved the way for change in so many ways. As Founder/Editor/Publisher of the Richmond Free Press, week after week, he offered many a window into the world of black Richmond," said Mayor Jones. "He provided visibility for people who might otherwise be invisible to some. He voiced concerns and desires in ways that might not otherwise have gotten expressed. When I think of Ray, the word that comes to mind for me is 'crusader.' It's clear to me that Ray Boone was a giant of a personality that won't soon be forgotten. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones during this time of loss."

Congressman Bobby Scott called Boone a "pioneer and a fixture in the Virginia Press Corps.

"While he was my friend, Ray was always a newsman first and never hesitated to hold my feet to the fire on issues important to the Richmond community," Rep. Scott said in a written statement. "I enjoyed our many interviews and editorial board meetings and I will miss talking politics and policy with him. I know his legacy will endure through the countless lives he has touched and will continue to touch through the Richmond Free Press."

"Richmond lost a crusading journalist today with the death of Ray Boone," said Senator Tim Kaine. "My thoughts are with Jean, Raymond, Regina and the Free Press family."

"Mr. Boone represented the very best of aggressive, community-based advocacy journalism," wrote Senator Mark Warner. "His career as a newspaperman and then as a professor of journalism would have been more than enough for most people, but instead Mr. Boone founded the Richmond Free Press in 1992 to provide a voice for the voiceless."

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