eventy-eight years ago, the Sun-Reporter was born. With the massive migration of African Americans to the San Francisco Bay Area to work in the wartime shipyards, the sudden change in population made it clear that if African Americans were to have a voice, they had to have a newspaper. The Sun-Reporter became that paper. First came The Reporter in 1944, founded and edited by Thomas C. Fleming, which soon merged with The Sun, a paper acquired in a poker game by Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett, Fleming’s longtime friend. Thus the Sun-Reporter was launched, with Dr. Goodlett as Editor/Publisher, Dr. Dan Collins as Co-Publisher, and Fleming as Managing Editor. In 1951 Dr. Goodlett became sole publisher, and in 1971 he added the seven Metro-Reporters and the California Voice to his publications.
Dr. Goodlett was born July 23, 1914 in Chipley, Florida and educated in the public schools of Omaha, Nebraska. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Howard University in 1935, a Ph.D. in Psychology from UC Berkeley in 1938, and a Medical degree from Meharry Medical College, Tennessee in 1944. When he settled in the Bay Area he opened his medical offices in San Francisco, where his diagnostic skills and commitment to family practice made him an important addition to the medical profession and the emerging black community. Throughout his career he administered to hundreds of patients, many of whom he served without charge. He was one of the few doctors who still made home visits.
Besides being an outstanding physician, Dr. Goodlett capitalized on his early interest in journalism (as editor of the Hilltop, Howard University’s student newspaper) by becoming publisher of the Sun-Reporter, a fighting, crusading newspaper designed to take on all the social and political battles raging in post-war America and proudly carrying the motto, “That no good cause shall lack a champion, and that evil shall not thrive unopposed.”
From its inception, and it holds true today, the Sun-Reporter has taken a strong editorial stand against racism, segregation, war and inequality while actively fighting for civil rights, fair employment and housing laws, and world peace. Early on the Sun-Reporter challenged school segregation and denounced Senator Joseph McCarthy’s assault on civil liberties in the days of the Cold War. Dr. Goodlett was in constant touch with Paul and Eslanda Robeson and was largely responsible for bringing Mr. Robeson for a concert to Third Baptist Church when all other venues were prohibited to him.
In 1963 the Sun-Reporter office was moved to Dr. Goodlett’s new building on Turk Street, where he could more efficiently pursue both his medical practice and the business of running a newspaper. The Sun-Reporter, with its upstairs Community Room, became a focal point for the community. Many events took place there, including visits from Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Dick Gregory, and the Black Panthers. Some young and talented journalists started their careers at the Sun-Reporter and moved on, including Lance Gilmore, Edith Austin, Belva Davis, Valerie Coleman and many more. Phil Burton, Art Agnos, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, George Moscone, Cecil Poole, Ron Dellums, Barbara Lee, Mervyn Dymally, Aileen Hernandez, Dolores Huerta and many other prominent political figures dropped by the Sun-Reporter for advice and counsel.
In 1951 Dr. Goodlett joined the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), the Black Press of America, and served three terms as its president. He also served as chair of the California Black Leadership Council and as president of the San Francisco Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and led a protest against the Municipal Railway for discrimination against African Americans.
He became an active mover in the Democratic Party and in 1966 ran for Governor of California in the Democratic primaries, with Sy Cassidy, Dick Gregory and Rev. Cecil Williams as sidekicks in the “Goodlett for Governor” campaign. He ran under the motto, “The people are wise — wiser than the politician thinks!” and with a platform demanding “an economic floor below which no one can fall!” He came in third in a field of six.
Dr. Goodlett was on the Presidium of the World Peace Council and traveled extensively to every continent during the days of the Cold War, heading American delegations to conferences in Stockholm, Moscow, East Berlin, Accra, Helsinki, Prague, Sofia, Budapest and Copenhagen. He formulated a world disarmament plan that is to be found to this day in the Congressional Record. He was vehemently against the war in Vietnam, and urged his friend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to take on this cause, stating, “It is our urgent responsibility to address ourselves to the critical needs at home, so long neglected during our preoccupation with the arms race, with a government whose instruments have been geared to serve only the rich and the powerful of the land.” He actively opposed nuclear weapons, and in a speech before the National Medical Association said, “No nuclear war can be won; neither can a nuclear war be limited to regions of the world. There is no medical treatment of those persons surviving a nuclear holocaust — in fact; the living would envy the dead.” Dr. Goodlett died of Parkinson’s disease in 1997 at the age of 82.
Today, with Publisher Amelia Ashley-Ward at the helm, the Sun-Reporter is very much alive and is continuing in the tradition begun by Dr. Goodlett. It is now published from offices on Fillmore Street, after returning to the area following several years in Bayview Hunters Point. Ashley-Ward, an award-winning journalist and photojournalist, is now celebrating her 41st year with the publishing company. Under her leadership the paper continues to win many awards and is also sought after by politicians seeking the African-American community’s support. She took the paper to another level by adding full color equipment to the company’s printing press, enabling the Sun-Reporter to be published in color. The printing press was housed at the company’s Bayview location, until it was recently sold. For years Ashley-Ward was one of a very few African American publishers to own a printing press.
Under Ashley-Ward’s visionary leadership, in 2014 the Sun-Reporter began highlighting and honoring African American leaders in Northern California in the annual Talented 25 editions. Selection for inclusion in The Talented 25 editions has become a coveted honor. The issues have particularly given exposure to a new generation of leaders who are working to improve the lives of African American residents of the Bay Area, while at the same time featuring pioneers and longtime community leaders.
Ashley-Ward shares her wisdom and counsels many African American corporate, community and elected leaders in the Bay Area. She was instrumental in the successful campaigns of Senator Kamala Harris when she sought to become San Francisco’s first African American woman and African American elected District Attorney. Ashley- Ward also played a significant role in the election of SF’s first African American woman Mayor London Breed. The Sun-Reporter further covers issues important to the community including police and criminal justice reform, education health disparities and jobs and housing. Her hard-hitting editorials exhibit a grasp of issues and champion the interests of the African American community.
Ashley-Ward, 64, a native of Magnolia, Mississippi, grew up in San Francisco and graduated from San Jose State University with a B.A. degree in journalism and photojournalism in 1979. She has received numerous awards, including “Publisher of the Year” in 1998 from the National Newspaper Publishers Association (The Black Press of America). On May 3, 2004, Ashley-Ward returned to San Jose State University to receive the prestigious “Alumnus of the Year” award. In 2005 she was chosen as “Woman of the Year” by State Senator Carole Migden and in 2008 she was named one of the 49 Most Influential People in San Francisco by 7×7 Magazine. In 2013 she was selected to be featured in The History Makers, the nation’s largest African American Video Oral History Collection.
Publisher Ashley-Ward currently serves as Chairman of the NNPA Foundation and has been a member of the NNPA Board of Directors. She is a former member of the advisory board of St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California. A lifetime member of the NAACP, she is a former member of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Branch of the NAACP and the board of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau. In 2004, she founded the Sun-Reporter Foundation.
Ashley-Ward is the mother of Evan Carlton Ward, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in broadcasting from Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN. He previously won an Emmy Award as part of a team at KRON-TV for their coverage of the Ghost Ship Warehouse fire in Oakland in 2016.