- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2007

Benjamin F. Holman, a former professor at the University of Maryland College of Journalism and community relations director at the Justice Department, died Jan. 20 at George Washington University Hospital of complications from emphysema and congestive heart failure. He was 76.

Mr. Holman was born in Columbia, S.C. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and began his career in 1952 at the now-defunct Chicago Daily News, where he was the paper’s only black reporter.

After 10 years at the paper, he became an anchor for WBBM-TV in Chicago. In 1963, he joined CBS News in New York and later joined NBC News in Washington.

In 1965, President Johnson appointed Mr. Holman assistant director of the U.S. Community Relations Service. President Nixon appointed him director of the program three years later, making him equivalent to assistant attorney general and the highest-ranking black employee of the Justice Department. His appointment was renewed by President Ford.

Mr. Holman joined the faculty at the University of Maryland’s College of Journalism in 1978 as a visiting professor and became full professor the next year. He was acting dean of the college from 1980 to 1981.

He taught courses on newspaper, radio and television news, and created courses on covering issues such as race and homelessness. He retired and was named a professor emeritus in 2004.

Reese Cleghorn, a professor and former dean of the college, said Mr. Holman’s work with the Justice Department was a defining part of his character. Mr. Cleghorn said Mr. Holman was an honest man who did a lot to reduce tension in black communities but also did much to channel frustrations of black people.

“You knew when you talked to Ben, he meant what he said. He didn’t have any secret agenda,” Mr. Cleghorn said. “He negotiated a lot of good things for black people. He was not just there to put out fires.”

The college’s dean, Thomas Kunkel, said Mr. Holman was a bridge builder who helped grow the journalism program by bringing faculty members together.

“Everybody respected him. Everybody valued his opinion,” Mr. Kunkel said. “He had a genius for taking in divergent points of view and finding common ground.”

At Maryland, he edited the Faculty Voice, an independent faculty newspaper, and served on the board of the Black Faculty and Staff Association.

He also was as a guest columnist for the Dallas Morning News, covered the Olympics in Barcelona for 200 black-owned newspapers across the nation and served as a board member of the Washington Association of Black Journalists.

Mr. Kunkel said the new building for what is now the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, which is scheduled to break ground next year, will have a room dedicated to Mr. Holman.

Mr. Holman is survived by a sister, Lillie Mae Holman of Bloomfield, N.J.

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