WXYZ Detroit - When I remember my friend and journalistic colleague, Rev. Angelo B. Henderson, my thoughts race back in American history. Nearly 200 years ago, two well-educated clergymen established Freedom’s Journal, the nation’s first African American newspaper. The motto of John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish’s Journal was, “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us.”
Angelo was a Wall Street Journal Pulitzer Prize winning-journalist, popular WCHB-AM radio broadcaster, dedicated minister, and a strong advocate for Detroit and its large African American community. Like the great Black publishers of our past, he wasn’t content to just chronicle events making news. He investigated, interpreted, and at times, agitated news content. In his own skillful way he wanted to “plead our own cause” and make the world a better place to live.
Angelo was a talented writer and interviewer. He was also fair and honest. He protected his beloved Detroit against unfair criticism and stereotypes but never shied away from telling it “like it t-i-z!”
The Kentucky native hated the crime wave shaking once-solid Detroit neighborhoods. He used his daily radio show and church pulpit platforms to organize 5,000 citizens into the Detroit 300 group he co-founded. The purpose was to break the “no-snitch” rule and round-up the bad guys! He was a leader without being elected to public office.
Angelo was also accessible. Whenever I needed him to appear on my Spotlight on the News program, he would work it into his hectic schedule. I always appreciated his insight and comments. He was in touch with conversations taking place in the corporate board rooms and the local neighborhood hangouts. My last interview with him was on Election Day 2013. He stopped by the studio to debate fellow Detroit News alumnus Bill Johnson. They agreed to disagree about the role race played in Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s impressive victory over Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon.
Rev. Angelo was multi-faceted and larger than life. I’ll always remember him leading the Morning Prayer at Hope United Methodist Church in Southfield when he was an associate pastor there. He knew how to warm up the congregation for Rev. Dr. Carlyle Fielding Stewart III. I was surprised when Angelo departed Detroit’s Hartford Memorial Baptist Church to join Hope, and equally surprised when he left Hope to take a position at Triumph Church in Detroit.
But what I’ll cherish most about Angelo was his cheerful personality and his leadership roles in the National Association of Black Journalists. He dedicated himself to the organization both locally and nationally. He knew how to take care of business and have plenty of fun. Yep, he could "set you" in a Bid Whist card game! He loved music, colorful clothes and his Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity.
Angelo was strongly supported in all of his endeavors by his wife, Felicia, an award-winning assistant managing editor at The Detroit News and his son, Grant, a talented basketball player and student, who Angelo frequently bragged about.
At age 51, Rev. Angelo B. Henderson died much too young! But trust me, St. Peter, heaven won’t be the same again now that Angelo has passed through those pearly gates!