As the Sentinel celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, one reader chose to share her personal recollections of her friendship with former publisher Ruth Washington.
During Washington’s 13-year tenure as publisher, genuine empathy for the community was her trademark. She often told her staff “courtesy pays your salary” and sought to promote stories that showcased the positive aspects of Black people.
Elizabeth Cooper saw this firsthand as she shared phone conversations with Washington for several years as they not only discussed the paper but life in general.
Cooper was an avid reader of the Sentinel every week and one of her favorite sections was Washington’s column. One day, she called the newspaper to comment on an editorial and a friendship was born.
That became the first of many conversations the two would share over the phone and despite never meeting in person, Cooper felt a bond with the woman who carried and built upon the legacy of her husband, Sentinel founder Colonel Leon Washington.
“She was a fighter and believed in the people. She wanted Black people to have a voice and enabled them to get involved with the issues and the community [at-large],” Cooper said, now living in the San Fernando Valley
Two decades ago, she found herself in the center of a “family law matter” and after the story was published in another newspaper, she received a call from Washington, who was glad that her story got more exposure.
“She used to call me from her home in Pasadena and ask about my disabled son,” Cooper said.
Every Christmas, she would get a greeting card from her and nearly two decades since Washington’s passing in 1990, Cooper still has a few cards that say “Keep in Touch.”
From afar, she admired her empathy, genuine personal concern and the way she encouraged her readers. It was that human touch that Cooper felt through the telephone every time they spoke.
“She was a beautiful person and she wanted that same beauty for the community.”
She said that Washington would be proud of the direction the paper has taken now and in the midst of a historic presidential campaign, she wonders what her friend would have said about Senator Barack Obama as well as Senator Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
It’s these memories that remind how much the Sentinel means to this community and that the impact of those who built it up will never be forgotten.