All through the month of February, WSAV has featured notable figures in our area's civil rights history. Tom Coffey Jr. has been recognized for helping level the field in a different way. The long time newspaper sports editor has been credited with helping insure that Savannah's black schools got coverage as well-- something they seldom got before that.
Tom spent more than 50 years in the newspaper business-- returning to Savannah after being wounded during a shootout with a Japanese soldier in the Second World War. Tom was shot in the shoulder, the other soldier in the head.
Coffey did about every job there was during his long newspaper career-- eventually working his way up to editor. At the time, people of color got very if any positive coverage in the paper and the sports page was dominated by the city's white teams. "I think nobody gave a darn about them really. Those were segregated years and I went and put them on anyhow." he says.
Not everyone was happy with the decision, Coffey says he did take some flak but slowly the city's black athletes began to get more ink in the paper as they deserved. He gives equal credit to his friend Lester Johnson, who taught at beach and later headed up the engineering department at SSU. Johnson was working part time in the paper's mail room at the time and kept pushing for black schools to get more coverage.
In 2011, Coffey was inducted into Beach High School's Athletic Hall of Fame for his efforts-- taking his place among many of the city's great athletes who had been ignored by the media. He is now 91 years old and has also written books about Savannah's history. Click video to see the feature on Tom Coffey, Jr.
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