“Houston needs a positive Negro newspaper and I think I’m going to start one.”
These were the profound words of Mr. Julius P. Carter – the visionary founder of what has become the largest, uninterrupted Black-owned independently published newspaper in the South – the historic Houston Forward Times newspaper.
This year, the Houston Forward Times celebrates 60 years, owned by one family, and it was the vision of Julius Carter that has allowed this nationally award-winning newspaper to be a pillar in the community and a trusted source of news and information across the country.
Back in 1955, Julius Carter believed that Houston needed a newspaper that positively reflected the African American community, while also reporting the hard truths about what was happening in our communities on the local, state and national level. The idea of launching a newspaper like that came as a result of Julius becoming a strong business and community leader amongst Houston’s Black elite, and wanting Black people to be highlighted during a new era where it was time for Black people in Houston to move forward.
Julius began investing every extra dollar he could muster from his burgeoning cigarette vending business he operated out of his office garage, into the equipment he knew that he would need to print his first tabloid-sized publication. It was his plan to print a publication that featured only photos and positive stories about Black Houstonians in that first edition.
So, after initially casting his vision to a group of friends in 1955, Julius launched the first edition of the Houston Forward Times five years later, on January, 30, 1960, in his office garage.
Julius successfully ran the Houston Forward Times from 1960 to 1971. As time moved forward, the Civil Rights Movement became a focal point for Black people across the country, especially in Houston. The Houston Forward Times became widely known for reporting the truth – without fear or favor – which was a position that was not always popular. In 1971, after reporting a story that was not so favorable to the powers that be, the Houston Forward Times’ building was bombed. After the bombing, Julius died of a massive heart attack, only four days later, primarily as a result of all the pressure he had endured.
Instantly, Julius’ wife, Ms. Lenora “Doll” Carter, was thrust into the position of taking over the responsibility of running the Houston Forward Times in 1971. Julius had groomed her to take on the role of General Manager and Advertising Director and to eventually be able to succeed him.
Affectionately known by many simply as “Doll” Carter, Lenora took on the daunting task of being the Publisher and Editor of the newspaper and the CEO of the company, as a 29-year-old widow with two little girls, who were 9 and 11 at the time.
Upon taking over the daily operations of the Forward Times, many naysayers and doubters predicted, and even took bets, that “Doll” Carter would be out of business within six months. Sadly, once she successfully made it to the 6 month mark, people extended their unbelief and even made additional bets that she would not last for a year. Much to their surprise, the newspaper continued to thrive and grow tremendously under her leadership and “Doll” Carter built on the solid foundation laid out for her by her late husband.
In addition to overseeing an award-winning and historic publication, “Doll” Carter was responsible for helping the parent company, Forward Times Publishing Co., make major strides in the publishing industry across the country. The bold decision that she made to upgrade the business by purchasing an 8-Unit Goss press with the capability of printing two (2) color newspaper jobs at one time, gave Forward Times Publishing Co. a significant edge in the regional market. Not only was “Doll” Carter responsible for the day-to-day operations of one of the only publishing companies in the country to own its own printing press, she was also responsible for maintaining and securing clients who owned other major newspapers and magazines in the region. One of those clients was the University of Houston Daily Cougar, which Forward Times Publishing Co. printed every single day for over 28 years.
Because of the leadership of “Doll” Carter, the Houston Forward Times newspaper reached a paid circulation of roughly 65,000 and is still one of only a few publications in the region to hold a second-class mailing permit, which gives the company the ability to mail its newspapers directly into the homes and the offices of their loyal and dedicated subscribers. During her tenure, the Houston Forward Times continued to add to its impressive resume of never missing a week of print since inception and the business celebrated over fifty (50) years in business under her visionary and dedicated leadership from 1971 until her untimely death in April of 2010.
Unbeknownst to “Doll” Carter’s successor, Karen Carter Richards, she had been groomed for years by both of her parents to understand the importance of the Black Press and the value of sustaining its consistent voice through the Houston Forward Times newspaper.
At the age of seven, her father, Julius Carter, put a basket on her bicycle and had her delivering the newspaper in her neighborhood. As part of her father’s foresight, Karen was exposed to a world of politics, culture and business, which had a lasting impact on her emotional growth and professional development, allowing her to develop a strong work ethic and a sense of timeliness at an early age. Karen was often told by her mother, “Doll” Carter, that Julius would often tell her that if he “died on a Monday, be sure to bury him on that Tuesday and get the paper out.”
Karen states that her mother was like a drill sergeant, making her arrive early and stay late. She had to learn everything from the front door to the back door, so when “Doll” Carter passed away due to a massive heart attack in 2010, Karen had to take over the daily operations of the Houston Forward Times without a traditional transition of power. Upon taking the mantle, Karen immediately turned the Houston Forward Times into a multi-media powerhouse that continues to remain one of the strongest and most trusted voices for African Americans in the Greater Houston area, and she has been doing so for the last decade from 2010 to present.
As the Houston Forward Times celebrates 60 years in business, many activities and celebratory events are being scheduled to commemorate this momentous occasion. This past Tuesday, January 28th, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Council Member Martha Castex-Tatum (District K) honored the family and friends of the Houston Forward Times at Houston City Hall by declaring Tuesday, January 28th ‘Houston Forward Times Day” in the City of Houston. Karen and her three children – Jesse, Chelsea and Nykala – were all on hand to receive the honor bestowed upon the Houston Forward Times. Council Member Castex-Tatum also hosted a well-attended 60th Anniversary Kickoff Celebration at Houston City Hall on the same day.
So many things have happened in this city and country since 1960 and the Houston Forward Times has seen them all and has weathered the storm. May the Houston Forward Times continue to serve as a beacon of light in the City of Houston and across the nation, and may the Houston Forward Times march forward for another 60 years and beyond.