Citizen Newspaper Publisher William Garth, Sr. Dies at 79

Citizen Newspaper Publisher William Garth, Sr. Dies at 79

By Lisette Gushiniere (Chicago Citizen Newspaper Group, NNPA Member)

William Garth, Sr., the CEO of the Chicago Citizen Newspaper Group Inc., (CCNG) and Chairman of the Chatham Business Association (CBA), died on Friday, September 23, 2016. He was 79.

A pillar in the community, Garth led the Citizen with a steady hand and worked hard to make the news operation the largest Black-owned ABC audited newspaper in the Midwest. Starting out as an advertising salesman for the Citizen, Garth lived the American Dream. After gaining recognition as a master salesman at the Citizen, he ended up owning the newspaper chain in 1980 when he purchased the business from Gus Savage, a six-term Democratic congressman, who represented Chicago’s South Side. The sale to Garth included the “Chatham Citizen,” “Southend Citizen” and the “Chicago Weekend” newspapers. Under Garth’s leadership, the Citizen flourished. Between 1984-1987, Garth grew the newspaper chain when he added the “South Suburban” and “Hyde Park Citizen” newspapers.

The Citizen was a business Garth nurtured and loved. He once said, “I’ve been good to the Citizen, because the Citizen has been good to me.” He was right. With a current circulation of 112,000 newspapers and a following of 400,000 readers weekly, the Citizen established itself as an important source for community news focused on the African-American market.

During the early years, while the Citizen prospered, Garth remained close to his roots. For years, the Citizen operated from a storefront on 87th Street near King Drive, but as the business expanded, Garth moved on, but not too far away. Instead of opting for a lofty downtown office outside of the Black community, Garth stayed on Chicago’s South Side where he purchased a 12,000 square foot building on 806 East 78th Street.

From the Citizen’s new home, Garth established a not-for-profit foundation in memory of his late son, Quentis B. Garth, where he served as chairman. Through the QBG Foundation, the organization helped over 49 students and disbursed over $1 million in scholarship awards to disenfranchised, inner city youth in the Chicagoland area.

During his lifetime, Garth instinctively understood the importance of passing on the torch to the next generation of leaders. In essence, this was the purpose of the foundation. It’s no wonder that one of the numerous awards Garth received was the opportunity to carry the torch in Chicago during the 2002 Olympic Torch Relay. It was one of many local and national awards and honors he received during his lifetime.

Garth’s son, Darrell Garth, president and publisher of CCNG, was thankful for the support he and his family received from members of the community.

“The family would like to express our deepest gratitude and thanks for your prayers, cards, flowers, kind gestures, sympathy and show of support as we mourn the loss of my father,” said Garth. “The overwhelming response from members of the community who expressed love, care and concern during this difficult time is greatly appreciated.”

Garth was just as passionate about Black entrepreneurship as he was about helping young people. Through the Chatham Business Association (CBA), a business resource center offering an array of customized services and programs designed to assist businesses, he worked tirelessly to lead and guide the developments of the CBA. A dedicated activist in the community, it was important to him that Blacks had a seat at the table and were represented on all levels in business.

Garth deeply understood the power of the Black press and was an active member in the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), an organization whose mission he vigorously supported. As the former President of Midwest Region III of the NNPA, he was also Region III Advertising Representative with the association. In addition to the NNPA, Garth was active throughout the publishing industry. He became the first Black person to be elected president of the Illinois Press Association (IPA). The IPA is the state’s largest newspaper association and is the office trade organization for Illinois weekly and daily newspapers.

By holding this title at the IPA, Garth became the second Black person in the nation elected president of a statewide press association. He also sat on the Board of the Government Affairs Committee, of the Illinois Press Association and served as a board member for more than 15 years. In addition, he was elected a stockholder in the Cook County South Suburban Publishers Association and in 2009, was elected Chairman of the Cook County Publishers Association for 2010. His business acumen and knowledge in the publishing industry allowed him to also serve as a board member of the Midwest Black Publishers Association.

Garth left a lasting impression on the people he met. “Bill Garth was my hero, my friend and my business partner,” commented Al McFarlane, Founder of Insight News and Chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, Foundation. “He was part of the Pantheon of legendary newspaper owners and civic leaders,” he said. “Garth was a master salesman, consummate strategist, and visionary philanthropist. He traveled the world…challenged and afforded American business leaders the opportunity to renegotiate the marketing relationship between product producers and our consumer marketplace. He highlighted the burgeoning purchasing power of Black consumers and unwaveringly marched into often bare knuckle negotiations demanding and achieving movement toward equity and parity. Fearless, he commanded the attention and respect of presidents and heads of state, governors and congressional leaders, captains of industry and the everyday citizen as well.

“Garth and I met with His Excellency John Atta Mills, the Vice President of Ghana in his offices at Osu Castle, Accra, Ghana. We were on a mission on behalf of our company, Midwest Black Publishers Coalition, to connect African Americans with Ghana and Africa through the 1999 P 4th Pan-African Historical Theatre Festival (PANAFEST ’99).

I saw first-hand his confidence and competence, quickened by the power of his personality, resulting in his ability to slice through layers of formality with laser sharp focus on issues at hand. In travelling with him, and at dinner time reminiscing with colleagues and clients, I learned that what I perceived was in fact the genuine article, “True Blue Bill”, the rule, and not the exception.

“So it made sense that at any given time some 40 students from the Greater Chicagoland area were attending colleges and universities thanks to millions of dollars he raised on behalf of the Citizen Newspaper and the QBG Foundation. It made sense that he was a leader in the Illinois Press Association and the Cook County Publishers Association. It made sense that Chicago named a street after him. It made sense that he enriched every life he touched.

Long-time friend and colleague Patricia O’Flynn Pattillo and publisher of The Milwaukee Community Journal had this to say about Garth. “Mr. Garth was a Renaissance man. Born in the Jim Crow south and re-birthed in Chicago’s windy city, he was passionate about justice, equality and upward mobility. He had a gift for analyzing, strategizing and seeking collaborations to build, community, locally and nationally. His work with political giants like Mayor Harold Washington, Operation PUSH and the Reverend Jesse Jackson, the election of Congressman Gus Savage and even our first African American President Barack Obama, all attest to his unique call on identifying and supporting talented candidates for electoral office.

“His work with the National Newspaper Publishers Association was unparalleled and he was campaign manager of many including my ascendancy, as the first female President of the NNPA, the Black Press of America. He also guided the National Advertising Committee of NNPA and culled data and statistics that brought millions of dollars, through advertising, to members of this auspicious organization. He worked most often in the background such as with the Chatham Business Association and the committee to bring major businesses to his neighborhood bringing convenience, removing urban deserts and making employment opportunities a major part of this initiative. Yet he was a conscientious president and major contributor in the success of the Illinois Press Association, a diverse amalgamate of publishers throughout the state of Illinois.

“William Garth was a friend, a listener, a do-er, a colleague always seeking to make life better for his family, his neighbors, his friends. “Bill,” as we affectionately called him, was a brother to me. In my role as publisher of the Milwaukee Community Journal, having founded it in 1976, Bill was a mentor, a respected peer, a professional associate, a friend. He is sorely missed and shall be forever remembered.” May God bless his soul and comfort his magnanimous family. Peace be with you!”

In December 1998, Garth received the honor of being appointed to Governor-elect George Ryan’s Transition Team and was later appointed to the Board of Directors for the Illinois Inauguration 1998, Inc. He also maintained memberships and positions with several business organizations, served as a member of the transition team for the IDOT Dan Ryan Project, was a board member of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, a life-time member of the NAACP and a member of the Chatham Lions Club.

In 2010, an honorary street was named after the Citizen Publisher. During the ceremony, family, friends, members of the business community as well as numerous dignitaries and other officials shared in the celebration with Garth.

HOME GOING SERVICES FOR MR. WILLIAM “BILL” GARTH, SR. ARE AS FOLLOWS:

VISITATION: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2016
AA RAYNER FUNERAL HOME
318 EAST 71ST STREET
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

HORSE LED PROCESSION: SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2016
10:00A.M. – 11:00 A.M.
(ROUTE: FUNERAL HOME TO CHURCH LINEUP AT AA RAYNER FUNERAL HOME)
318 EAST 71ST STREET
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

WAKE: SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2016
11:15 A.M. – 12:15 P.M.

FUNERAL SERVICES: 12:15 P.M. – 2:15 P.M.

NEW CONVENANT MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH
754 EAST 77TH STREET (COTTAGE GROVE)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS 60619

INTERMENT: OAKWOOD CEMETARY 1035 E. 67TH STREET

Repast Immediately Following:
NEW CONVENANT MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH
754 EAST 77TH STREET (COTTAGE GROVE)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS 60619

In lieu of flowers please make checks payable to:
THE BILL GARTH SCHOLARSHIP FUND
Checks can be mailed to
BMO Harris Bank located on
1400 W. 18th Street
Chicago, IL 60608
or by walking into any BMO Branch.