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Lionel Barrow Jr.'s life had ties to MLK and Obama

TAMPA — Days before he died, Lionel Barrow Jr. refused his pain medication.

It was well worth tolerating the cancer for a little clarity last Tuesday. As the 82-year-old watched the inauguration of President Obama, tears streamed down his face and he pumped his fists from his hospice bed, nurses told his wife.

For Mr. Barrow, it was the culmination of a lifelong journey.

As former dean of the Howard University School of Communications and a Morehouse College classmate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s, Mr. Barrow worked to promote the role of women and minorities in the world of journalism.

In 1958, he joined the Army when he couldn't find a job after graduating with a master's degree in the field.

"Those experiences with racism are what led him to do what he did," said his wife, Frederica Barrow. "He came from civic-minded people."

Mr. Barrow died Friday, three days after watching the historic inauguration on TV.

Born in 1926 in Harlem, Mr. Barrow was the son of a Barbardos immigrant. He started school at the age of 5 in a one-room schoolhouse. Fascinated by history and literature, he dabbled in radio and newspapers, and after receiving his doctorate, went to work in the advertising industry.

Eventually, he became vice president and associate director of research for the Foote, Cone and Belding advertising agency in New York. Then in 1975, he began a 10-year stint as dean at Howard University.

Mr. Barrow also founded the Minorities in Communications Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. A graduate scholarship was established by the group in his name, and later he was presented an AEJMC Presidential Award for his contributions.

Mr. Barrow met his future wife on a blind date. Married in 1992, they moved to Tampa in 2002 so she could begin her academic career at the University of South Florida. With his first bout of prostate cancer behind him, the couple headed for the Florida sunshine. Here, they held poetry readings and supported the Democratic Party. Last fall, they hosted a fundraiser for Obama in their predominately Republican Arbor Greene neighborhood.

Mr. Barrow had hoped to be a super delegate, but he gave up the idea when the cancer came back. Instead, he supported his wife as a precinct committeewoman, as well as Obama.

The last week of his life, Mr. Barrow told his wife to use those lucky inauguration tickets and head to Washington. "If he couldn't be there, someone from his family had to," Frederica Barrow said. "He was elated."

A memorial for Lionel C. Barrow Jr., will take place at Grace Episcopal Church in Tampa on Feb. 8 at 1 p.m. A second memorial is planned in the Washington, D.C., area the weekend of Feb. 14.

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at or (813) 661-2454.

Lionel Barrow Jr.'s life had ties to MLK and Obama 01/25/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 26, 2009 7:18am]
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