Sam Logan —
Champion for the City
January 6, 2012
(Note: A funeral service for Sam Logan is scheduled for 10 a.m., Friday, January 6, at Greater Grace Temple, 23500 West Seven-Mile Road, Detroit. Burial will be at Elmwood Historic Cemetery in Detroit.)
In the often rough-and-tumble world of journalism, there are few legends. Sam Logan was one of them.
Southeast Michigan lost a pillar and the journalism community a giant with the passing last week of the 78-year-old Michigan Chronicle publisher who spent a 40-plus-year career at that Detroit newspaper.
Mr. Logan came to Detroit from the south as a teen and settled in the Motor City. He was a beloved father and grandfather — the two titles that mattered most to the gentle, soft-spoken leader who shunned the spotlight.
He made his mark during a storied career at the Chronicle and its sister paper, Michigan FrontPage, where his bold leadership and vision of a stronger Detroit had an impact not only on the region, but the entire state.
He worked tirelessly to close the gap between rich and poor, black and white. He was a champion for Detroit Public Schools, in hopes the district would return to its glorious past and prepare all young people for the competitive global marketplace.
Mr. Logan walked with American presidents, CEOs, powerful religious and community leaders. He was just as comfortable talking to young people and seniors at a community center on the city’s east side about issues confronting the African American community.
To Sam Logan, there was just one litmus test: helping and doing what he could to make his hometown, region and state better places. He was successful because he kept his focus on making a difference.
Mr. Logan was also a beloved friend and mentor whose impact will forever be etched in my heart and soul.
Sometimes, making a difference meant putting a spotlight on issues that others might have determined wouldn’t sell papers, like talking up a senior center being helped by young people.
Sometimes it meant taking a seemingly contrarian stance, like endorsing the best candidate in his view — such as Republican John Engler over Democrat Howard Wolpe in the 1994 Michigan governor’s race, an endorsement that gained national attention and the scorn of some readers.
He worked with others like Ed Deeb, chairman and founder of the Michigan Business and Professional Association and its sister Michigan Food and Beverage Association, to unite the community and quell sour racial relations that had erupted.
To Mr. Logan, it was always about doing the right thing for the community.
“He was fearless when it came to taking a stand and did so out of a genuine love of Detroit and our state,” Gov. Rick Snyder said.
“Sam Logan always spoke truth to power with integrity and authority,” said Tom Watkins, former state schools superintendent who was asked by Mr. Logan to write for the Chronicle because they shared concerns for DPS and other community issues.
Mr. Logan was also blessed with a keen sense of news. Under his leadership, the Chronicle led coverage about corruption in Detroit Public Schools a few years ago; the paper’s stories led to criminal cases.
He didn’t take delight in that. Nor did he try to gain journalism awards. Instead, Mr. Logan took comfort knowing those stories helped kids and classrooms when district dollars went where they rightfully should.
Mr. Logan and I would often talk about race relations — a topic that proved interesting to a black man from the south and a white woman raised on the east side of Detroit.
While many described the Chronicle as the largest African American newspaper in the state, Mr. Logan would tell me the Chronicle was in the business of providing information to “the entire community…black, white and anything in between.”
Which brought us to a conversation six years ago when he and Hiram Jackson, CEO of Real Times Media, parent company of the Chronicle, decided to start a breakfast forum where leaders would talk about critical issues that needed attention.
They wanted to have then-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, who had been bickering over Cobo Hall, discuss race relations and much more.
Mr. Logan approached me about moderating “Pancakes and Politics,” the name chosen for the event. As senior producer and host of WWJ-TV CBS Detroit’s Michigan Matters, I moderated conversations and forums for the Detroit Economic Club, Detroit Regional Chamber and others.
In keeping with the nature of our relationship, I cut to the chase. I asked if he thought about the obvious. “I may be from Detroit and attended Detroit Public Schools, but I am white.”
“Ms. Cain,” he started, as he would whenever he wanted to reinforce something, “You are looking for problems when there aren’t any. I see you as the perfect host for our event. I have fought my entire life to not have people judged by the color of their skin but by their abilities. End of story.”
We agreed to do the first one. And six years later, with governors, mayors, CEOs, religious leaders and more taking to the stage, “Pancakes and Politics” has been a success due to Mr. Logan’s and Mr. Jackson’s efforts.
Jackson, who worked alongside Mr. Logan for years, was named interim publisher of the Chronicle and is adamant about keeping Mr. Logan’s legacy alive at the paper.
“Sam’s dedication to the Michigan Chronicle was matched only by his passion for tackling tough issues for the betterment of the community to which he dedicated his life,” Jackson said.
Ironically, Mr. Logan and I talked only a week ago about the upcoming Pancakes season.
He was enthused about prospects in a year with a red-hot presidential contest. He was excited about Detroit, with the Ilitches, Gilberts, Karmanos and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores here.
He felt the pieces were falling into place to take our region to the next level. Alas, Mr. Logan got the call. He was needed in heaven.
The Michigan Chronicle family will go on, as will “Pancakes” and other events led by the paper. The stories will continue, too.
God bless you, Sam Logan and your family! You led a wonderful life and leave behind an incredible legacy!