Former Defender publisher now community activist

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A former second lieutenant in the U.S. Army who later became publisher of the Chicago Defender, now sees himself as a community activist, as president of the Chicago Defender Charities Inc., a non-profit organization.

A former second lieutenant in the U.S. Army who later became publisher of the Chicago Defender, now sees himself as a community activist, as president of the Chicago Defender Charities Inc., a non-profit organization.

“Meeting the needs of the community is what I do on a daily basis,” Col. Eugene F. Scott, 69, told the Defender. “We get people every day coming to us asking for food, clothing, you name it. If we don’t have it on hand we try to place them with someone who can help them.”

After retiring from the Army in 1990, Scott went to work for the Defender as the executive assistant to John H. H. Sengstacke, who became publisher of the Defender after his uncle–the paper’s founder–Robert S. Abbott died in 1940. Sengstacke died in 1997.

Scott was the general manager of the Defender from 1993 to 2000. And even though he had what some perceived as little-to-no journalism experience, Scott said he was involved in all aspects of the paper during his tenure as general manager.

“This was back when the Defender was still a daily newspaper. I remember sitting down with the editors and reporters and deciding what page to place the stories (on) and what the headlines would be,” he recalled. “The seven years I served as general manager really gave me an on-the-job learning experience about journalism. So by the time I became publisher (2000) I had all the experience needed to fully run the paper.”

Scott earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida A&M University in 1961.

The role of the Black press has changed since the Defender was founded in 1905, Scott said.

“Black newspapers do not influence the community as much as it used to, when it comes to politics and international news,” he said. “Much of its influence is in local news. Reporting news in the community has always been a specialty for Black newspapers and will remain one for years to come.”

In 2003, Real Times Media Inc. purchased the Chicago Defender, and that’s when Scott said the new owners told him his services were no longer needed.

“They brought their own people in to manage the paper, which is typical when ownership changes,” Scott said. “That’s when I shifted my energies to the charities.”

Among the CDC’s biggest events is the annual Bud Billiken Day Parade, now in its 79th year. The South Side parade kicks off 10 a.m., Saturday, starting at 35th and King Drive, rolling through Washington Park, to 51st and King Drive.

Preparation for the parade begins in September and typically costs the Charities $300,000 to produce. About 100 floats are a part of the three-hour parade.

Non-profit agencies and groups pay $1,500 per float to participate in the parade, and for-profit companies and organizations pay $2,500.

“We are very picky about the types of floats allowed in the parade because the theme is education,” Scott said.

“So if for example a beer company wants to have a float, their float must be geared toward education and not drinking or promoting their products.”

Scott said the CDC’s scholarship gala is also a big event. This year’s gala was held July 31, where a total of $250,000 was awarded to 50 students who demonstrated financial need.

“Helping families help their children is a huge giveback to the community, and we’re proud of that,” Scott said.

When he is not helping someone in the community, Scott enjoys playing racketball and fishing.

“I once caught a 13-pound fish, so that let’s you know I do okay for myself,” Scott said.

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Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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