Louis E. Lomax broke the television news color barrier in 1958. Today (August 16), on what would have been his 96th birthday had he not died in a car crash at age 47, we revisit his history-making career in print and TV journalism.
The Lowndes County Historical Society and Museum in Lomax’s hometown of Valdosta, Georgia, says that he was born to a prominent local family in 1922. An obituary from The New York Times adds that he pursued a bachelor’s degree at Paine College and earned advanced degrees at American and Yale Universities. His journalism career began at Black community newspapers like the Chicago Defender, and he joined New York City’s WNTA-TV in 1958 as the country’s first Black TV newscaster.
It was in this capacity that he and future “60 Minutes” anchor Mike Wallace co-produced “The Hate That Hate Produced.” The 1959 documentary special focused on Black nationalist groups like the Nation of Islam, and Lomax conducted some of the earliest televised interviews with leaders like Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad.
Lomax’s interrogation of Black life and resistance continued via several books, including “The Reluctant African” and “The Negro Revolt.” He was a writer-in-residence at Hofstra University and working on a three-volume series on Black culture and history when he died during a speaking tour.