Publisher of Omaha Star dies

Posted at 6:08 PM, Feb 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-14 19:14:42-05

Never in her wildest dreams did Marguerita Washington ever think of getting into the newspaper industry.

But the death of her aunt, Mildred Brown, changed all of that.

“She was an educator and that's where her heart laid,” says Phyllis Hicks, a friend and director of advertising and marketing at Omaha Star.

For years, she taught for Omaha Public Schools. However, she switched careers and inherited her aunt’s weekly black paper.

Now, Washington’s name is forever tied to the only black newspaper in Nebraska.

“She felt that it was vital to keep the paper going,” Hicks says. “She tried to couple her ambitions with that of the paper. She felt that the newspaper was just another arm of education.”

Once she took on the unlikely career choice, Washington fully embraced it.

“She wanted to uplift the community, continue Mildred Brown's commitment to positive news in the paper,” says John Pierce, a friend.

Up until her death on Saturday – for 27 years – Washington never took a salary from the paper and made countless sacrifices to keep the paper running, according to Hicks and Pierce.

“Between Mildred in 1938 and as of today, the paper never missed an edition through all of the financial crunches, through the boycotts, the riots,” Hicks says.

While she ran the paper, she also pursued other interests. She served on boards and created the Mildred D. Brown Memorial Study Center to inspire African American students to study journalism and communications.

Friends say her second career fueled her desire to better serve her community. In her honor, they say they plan to start a scholarship, similar to what she created for her aunt.

“She was very determined,” Hicks says. “She was – I'd say stubborn but she was a very determined person and she wanted to make sure that there was an opportunity for the people of North Omaha's voices to be heard.”

As for the newspaper’s fate, Pierce says a group is working to find another publisher.