By Lisette Gushiniere
William Garth, Sr., CEO of the Chicago Citizen Newspaper Group, Inc. (CCNG) and chairman of the Chatham Business Association (CBA) passed on Friday, Sept. 23. He was 79.
A pillar in the community, Garth led the Chicago 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 when he purchased the business in 1980. The sale to Garth included the Chatham Citizen, Southend Citizen and the Chicago Weekend Newspapers. Under Garth’s leadership, the Citizen flourished. 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.” 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.
Garth also 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 more than 49 students and disbursed more than $1 million in scholarship awards to disenfranchised, inner city youth in the Chicagoland area.
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.
Garth deeply understood the power of the Black press and was an active member in the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA). He served as the former president of Midwest Region III of the NNPA. Garth 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. He also sat on the Board of the Government Affairs Committee, of the IPA 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,” said 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. 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 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 4thPan-African Historical Theatre Festival. 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.
“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.”
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, was a board member of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and a lifetime member of the NAACP.
In 2010, an honorary street was named after the Citizen publisher.