A down-to-earth woman with an infectious smile. Thousands of mourners gathered to pay final respects to award-winning, African American journalist who was highly admired and loved. Gwen Ifill passed away on Monday, October 14 from complications of cancer. She was 61.
First Lady Michelle Obama sat alongside a number of prominent journalists, including Dorothy Gilliam, Roland Martin, and Charlayne Hunter-Gault.
Gwen Ifill was born in 1955, in Jamaica, Queens. Her father was a minister and her family was dedicated to watching the news to keep up on current events.
In 1977, Ms. Ifill graduated from Simmons College in Boston, where she majored in communications. Her first job as a professional journalist was with The Boston Herald – American.
In between that job and her final one with PBS, Ms. Ifill worked for The Baltimore Evening Sun, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, where she was a White House correspondent and covered Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign.
Her television career began in 1994, when Tim Russert recruited her to cover Capitol Hill for NBC. She joined PBS in 1999.
Her highest visibility came as the moderator and managing editor of the public affairs program, “Washington Week” on PBS, where she was also co-anchor and co-managing editor of “NewsHour.”
She asked the hard questions, challenged the status quo and showed confidence in any situation.
President Obama called her an “extraordinary journalist.” Ms. Ifill’s funeral began quietly as images of her were projected onto the wall. Soon, her voice filled the room on a recording:
“You can be the person who turns toward, not away from, the chance to rise above the fray.”
In another recording played later, Ms. Ifill said, “It’s important to be reminded how easily we can be denied simple, obvious opportunity, how low the ceilings can get and how much fortitude it takes to refuse to accept the limits that others place on you.”
Gwen Ifill helped explain the world to us, in her eloquent way. She helped us manage the political changes and understand what it meant for us personally.
A groundbreaking journalist who covered The White House, Congress and national campaigns for three decades, led such a distinguished career. Ms. Ifill was in the forefront of journalism as a black woman in a field dominated by white men.
She also wrote The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, a book published the day President Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009.
In 2012, she was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists’ Hall of Fame. Last year, she received the Fourth Estate Award from the National Press Club.
She was scheduled to receive the John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism last week.
Gwen Ifill will be greatly missed.