Ford to honor 3 African-American journalists
by Oralandar Brand-Williams, The Detroit News
The Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles was just steps away from his close friend and fellow civil rights activist the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as King lay dying from an assassin’s bullet on the early evening of April 4, 1968.
He sprang into action, calling for the hotel operator to call an ambulance. “There was so much blood,” Kyles, 74, said. “I thought I was having a nightmare.”
His recollection of King’s assassination 41 years ago is the subject of a 30-minute documentary, “The Witness,” which was nominated for an Academy Award last year.
The Memphis, Tenn., pastor and former executive producer for 30 years of the Rainbow Coalition/PUSH weekly radio show is one of three people being honored Tuesday with a Ford Freedom Award by the Ford Motor Co.
The late Ed Bradley, a former war correspondent and “60 Minutes” reporter, and Robin Roberts, the co-host of ABC’s “Good Morning America” who has shared her struggle with breast cancer with viewers, are also being honored during the 11th annual awards ceremony.
This year’s award honors African-American accomplishments in journalism. The awards ceremony is at 6 p.m. at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.
“It’s such a special evening and a way of honoring people who are real community leaders and celebrating their achievements,” said event co-chairman Ziad S. Ojakli, Ford’s group vice president of government and community affairs.
Bradley’s widow, Patricia Blanchet, said her husband, a Philadelphia native, would be thrilled to be in the company of past honorees such as Ella Fitzgerald, Jackie Robinson and Coretta Scott King.
“Ed would be stunned and pleased,” Blanchet said.
“He was never a big man in his own head. He never walked around with an attitude ‘Look at me.’ That’s why he was so beloved.”
Roberts said she will highlight the state’s high unemployment by hosting the “Good Morning America” jobs fair Tuesday morning from Cobo Center. “It’s very important for our program to do this,” said Roberts, a native of Mississippi. She called Detroit the “heartland” that has “done so much for this country.”
“We are really looking forward to putting Detroit in the spotlight and showing there is resiliency there,” she said.