Prominent Chicago Journalist Dies

November 21, 2005


Chicago journalist and retired Columbia College Professor Les Brownlee has died.

Brownlee was the first African-American reporter for the Chicago Daily News, and the first black reporter to appear on air for WLS TV.

Columbia Journalism Professor Rose Economou calls Brownlee not only a journalism pioneer, but also a beloved teacher.

"At every faculty meeting, there is always that person that is the conscience of the faculty," she says. "That's who Les was. Columbia has a very strong urban mission, and believe me, Les Brownlee never let us forget it. You know, everything was for the students."

Economou says Brownlee pushed to get scholarships for students and helped them find jobs. He invited them to Thanksgiving dinner.

Brownlee also went to city schools to encourage young people to become journalists, and tell the untold stories of their neighborhoods.

Brownlee won an Emmy for his 1975 editorials on WLS.

His career also included a stint here at Chicago Public Radio. He died Monday at age 90.