Ted Poston, the subject of historical marker #2518, in Hopkinsville, was the “Dean of Black Journalists.” For 36 years, from 1936 until his retirement in 1972, Mr. Poston wrote for the New York Post as a staff writer.
Poston was born in Hopkinsville on July 4, 1906, the youngest son of Ephriam Poston and Mollie Cox. His eight older siblings helped raise him after his mother’s death in 1916. He attended the Booker T. Washington Colored Grammar School and graduated from Attucks High School in 1924. He attended Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial College (now Tennessee State University), graduating in 1928.
Before his time with the New York Post, Poston wrote for The New York Contender, the Pittsburgh Courier, and the New York Amsterdam News. He joined the Post first as a freelance writer and then as the first, fulltime Black journalist for the paper. He covered a little bit of everything over the course of his career. In 1940 he landed interviews with Louisiana Governor Huey Long and Republican Presidential candidate Wendell Wilkie, establishing his credibility in political reporting. Poston covered the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School, and hundreds of other stories.
Poston was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1949 for a series of articles—“Horror in the Sunny South”--which included evidence that helped exonerate three young people who had been falsely accused of raping a young woman in Florida. He won the George Polk Award for National Reporting and the Heywood Broun Award in 1949 for the series.
Poston worked throughout his career to mentor Black journalists. He set up “try-outs” for aspiring journalists of color and kept detailed notes on the successes and failures of the folks who met with the New York Post editors. In 1972, he was honored with a Black Perspectives award for Pioneering Journalists and was posthumously inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame when it opened in 1990.
He was a loquacious storyteller. In the newsroom, he would recount stories from his childhood in Christian County and the dangers and threats he faced while covering events in the South. Even before his retirement, he wrote short stories about his early life in Hopkinsville. Those stories were eventually published as The Dark Side of Hopkinsville: Stories by Ted Poston in 1991. Ted Poston died on January 10, 1974, in his home in Brooklyn, New York. He was 67 years old. He is buried in Hopkinsville’s Cave Spring Cemetery.
The marker, at Ninth and Main Streets reads:
Theodore Roosevelt Poston was born on July 4, 1906, in Hopkinsville. He was a graduate of Attucks High School and Tennessee A&I State College. In 1936 he began freelance writing for the New York Post and was soon hired full-time. He retired in 1972 after spending a career there. He died in NYC in 1974 and is buried in Cave Spring Cemetery, Hopkinsville. (Reverse) He covered major civil rights stories of his era and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1949. Poston received numerous other awards, including the George Polk Award in Journalism for national reporting. His book of short stories, The Dark Side of Hopkinsville, was published in 1991. He was inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame in 2000.
It was dedicated on May 20, 2017.