Dorothy R. Leavell

NNPA Chairman, Editor and Publisher The Crusader Newspaper Group

Dorothy R. Leavell continues to be at the helm of the Black Press of America. Since 1968, she has served as editor and publisher of the Crusader Newspaper Group—Chicago and Gary, Ind.—after the death of her first husband Balm L. Leavell Jr., co-founder of both publications in 1940 and 1961, respectively. Once at the helm of the company, Mrs. Leavell instituted modern changes to enhance the production and effectiveness of the newspapers. She also stabilized her holdings by purchasing and upgrading the buildings, which housed its editorial and production facilities. Since its inception, the Chicago Crusader and Gary Crusader have never missed a single issue.

On June 23, 2017, Mrs. Leavell was elected Chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), a Black newspaper trade organization. She previously served as president of NNPA and the NNPA Foundation from June 1995 to 1999 simultaneously. The Association has a combined readership of more than 15,000,000 readers. During her tenure, she increased the visibility and international stature of the organization. Mrs. Leavell led a controversial 20-member delegation to Nigeria to investigate the Nigerian political crisis. As a media advocate, she also was a staunch and visible supporter for the controversial and delayed confirmation of Alexis Herman as U.S. Secretary of Labor. In 1997 she attended the swearing in ceremony on May 9th.

A member of the NNPA for more than 49 years, Mrs. Leavell has served in various other capacities including assistant secretary, a member of the board of directors, and as treasurer, a post she held for 11 years. She has been featured in articles and on television programs discussing such topics as women in business; the strength of the Black Press; cultural diversity and its impact on business; and several human and civil rights issues.

In June 2006, Mrs. Leavell was elected Chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation. The Foundation oversees the philanthropic arm of the Association including the NNPA News Service, providing news articles and columns to the membership of NNPA; NNPA Black Press Archives housed at Howard University in Washington, D. C.; as well as administer internships, scholarships and grants to college students throughout the United States. She termed out as Chairman in June 2011. But her service to NNPA did that end there, she was elected as Region 3 board member during the June, 2011 convention. Also during that convention she was named “Publisher of the Year” during the Merit Awards gala.

As Chairman of the NNPA Foundation, She headed up a committee to pardon the Wilmington Ten, which was accomplished by the Governor of North Carolina, pardoning the Wilmington Ten in December 2013.

A lifelong supporter of the arts, Mrs. Leavell donated a personal art collection of

150 commissioned pieces, valued at more than $50,000 to the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago. Additionally, she a founding member of “Heroes in the Hood,” a program which celebrates young people who have performed volunteer and heroic deeds, yet have gone largely unrecognized. In 2013 she served as Chairman of the National Black Chamber of Commerce and in 2014 was appointed as board member of the National Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

Mrs. Leavell has often been honored and recognized for her philanthropic and civic contributions. A recipient of many awards, she was honored as NNPA’s Publisher of the Year (1989); the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago; State of Indiana’s “Attorney General for a Day; (June 9, 2000); Winnie Mandela Endurance with Dignity Award; Nation of Islam Distinguished Service Award; Operation PUSH Family Affair Award; by the National Association of Black Media Women; Fourth District Community Improvement Association Award in Gary; Dollars & Sense Magazine Award for Excellence in Business; the Mary McLeod Bethune Award; the Humanitarian Award from the Council on African Affairs; the Publishing Award from the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club, and an award in honor of publishing excellence and community service by Philip Morris Companies Inc., honored as the Grand Ye Ye at the 24th Annual 2013 African Festival of the Arts Chicago, Africa International House, Inc., and State of Illinois Proclamation from Governor Pat Quinn proclaiming October 21, 2014 as Dorothy Leavell Day in Illinois; she was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame in August 2016.

A native of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Mrs. Leavell is the second surviving child of Sallie and Blane Gonder. Her early formal education was achieved in the public schools of Pine Bluff, where she graduated as valedictorian of her class. She furthered her education at Roosevelt University in Chicago.

Active in her faith and church, Holy Name of Mary Church in Chicago’s Morgan Park community, she is the wife of John Smith, her second husband, and the mother of two children and three grandchildren. She also raised a niece and nephew. Mrs. Leavell is currently working on a memoir.