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Thomas Fleming, 98, pioneering black editor in the Bay Area

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Thomas Fleming, 98, a pioneering journalistic voice for the Bay Area’s African American community, died of congestive heart failure Nov. 21 at a retirement home in San Leandro, according to the Oakland Tribune.

In 1944, he became the founding editor of the Reporter, San Francisco’s only black newspaper at the time. Fleming hit the ground running, writing editorials on the failure of Bay Area shipyards, other war industries and the Oakland transit system to hire African Americans, Editor & Publisher magazine reported in 1998.

“There was a real need at the time to push issues for blacks out front,” Fleming said in 1994. “We worked very closely with the NAACP, and a lot of policymakers came to us. They wanted us to push their views.”

When the Reporter’s publisher won a competing weekly black newspaper in a poker game, the papers merged and became known as the Sun-Reporter.

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Fleming remained at the helm, except for a seven-month stint in the Army, until he retired at 89 in 1997.

A Jacksonville, Fla., native, Fleming moved to Chico, Calif., in 1919.

He attended Cal State Chico and first worked in journalism as an unpaid writer for the Spokesman, a black paper in Oakland.


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