Creed C. Black, 1925-2011

Creed C. Black, Former Knight Foundation President and CEO Remembering Creed Black

Dear Elsa and Michelle,

Creed Black was one of those newspaper men who profoundly believed that a free and productive press was the essential and primary force to sustain our democracy. As a civic and foundation leader, he kept his experienced eye on the needy and the less fortunate, always believing in the primacy of adequate education for all of our people. His founding leadership of the commission on intercollegiate athletics caused major colleges and universities once again to redefine and reassert the mission and purpose of higher education in our country.

His was the good life; a life of service and public commitment. Through it all was his abiding sense of good humor and good will toward each of us. We shall greatly miss this noble spirit.

— With love, Bill Friday

“Creed will truly be missed. He had such a wonderful sense of humor. I once asked him how long Key Biscayne was and he put up his two fingers, to show about a half an inch, and said “about this long on a map”. And, I always remember that he got such a kick out of Michelle when she was very young asking him where the pictures were in his book. He reminded me very much of my dad… a very special man.”

—Marjorie Knight Crane, daughter of James L. Knight

“I was one of the original Knight Commission group, with Creed, Father Ted and Bill Friday. From the beginning I was very fond of and admired Creed. He was a warm and gutsy guy. He will, indeed, be missed.”

— Chuck Young, Member Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics

Over the course of many years, I’ve seen Creed Black’s wonderful influence on so many aspects of American journalism – touching individuals he may have known only a little. Both at the Stanford program, which I saw make a difference for so many journalists in the middle of their careers, and now, at the Knight Commission, I see virtually every day the positive effects of the Knight legacy and of Creed’s beliefs and leadership.

I wish for his entire family peace at this time of loss, and comfort in knowing of the long-lasting mark he has left.

—With respect and warm regards, Judy Woodruff

Creed Black strengthened daily newspapering through smart, effective, forward-facing leadership and set high standards of honest public discourse about journalism’s challenges as well as its successes. He will be much missed.

— Kevin Klose Dean and Professor The Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland

All of us associated with the Knight Commission know that our work is a legacy of Creed’s commitment to higher education and its ideals. He was a visionary person that influenced so many lives. We all have been blessed by your willingness to share his time and energy with us. He lives on through his family, all who loved him, and the impact of the many good causes he helped to create. May the comfort of family and friends help you during this most challenging time.

— R. Gerald Turner Co-Chair, Knight Commission President, Southern Methodist University

I want to echo Gerald’s words and sentiments about the great admiration we all had for Creed and the sense of indebtedness we feel for his legacy, not just with the Knight Foundation and Commission but also as one of the giants of the newspaper industry. I am a native of Lexington Ky. and recall well how courageous he was when he ran the Lexington Herald. His principled stand in the face of narrow minded opposition will always stand for me a beacon of integrity. We at the University of Maryland will always be indebted to him as well for his phenomenal support in building our school of journalism. Please know that you and your family are in our thoughts and prayers.

—Brit Kirwan Co-chair of the Knight Commission Chancellor of the University System of Maryland

He was one of the greats – crafty, humane, and quietly subversive in a way that was constructive. List me as an admirer, colleague, respecter of Creed.

— Peter Goldmark Former president, Rockefeller Foundation

Creed Black, editor and newspaper publisher and the former president of Knight Foundation, has passed away. He was a courageous journalist who will be remembered at Knight Foundation as a leader, in the field of intercollegiate athletics as a visionary and in our hearts as a great friend.

A graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Creed was a reporter or editor in Paducah (Ky.), the U. S. Army’s Stars & Stripes, Nashville, Savannah, Wilmington, (Del.), Chicago and Philadelphia. His career was long and distinguished but perhaps never so remarkable as when he was editor and publisher of the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, where he set standards for courage and investigative journalism. He was the embodiment of the journalistic ideal of a full, accurate, contextual search for truth.

When he left Lexington, he assumed the presidency of Knight Foundation. Over his ten years of leadership, he helped strengthen communities and journalism by professionalizing and creating a national presence for our foundation.

His tenure began in 1988, just as Knight was entering a new phase made possible by an increase in assets after the death of our founder Jack Knight. When Creed arrived in Akron to begin his new job, we had just five employees, with most of the grant making decisions made by local newspaper publishers. Under his leadership, the foundation’s assets more than doubled to $1.2 billion, and Creed hired the staff and created the infrastructure needed to bring transformational change to journalism and communities.

Creed led the foundation’s move to Miami, where the Knight brothers’ headquarters also was located. In addition to responding to opportunities to fund programs in communities, he introduced program initiatives at the foundation and launched national programs in education and the arts.

Perhaps his greatest passion and legacy lies in the successful endeavor he launched more than 20 years ago to help reform the NCAA through the recommendations of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. As late as last week, his wife Elsa was still briefing Creed on new developments, as the NCAA adopted a rule change long championed by the Knight Commission. The NCAA Division I board voted to require teams to be on track to graduate at least 50% of their players to be eligible for postseason championships. Founding co-chair of the Knight Commission and former head of the University of North Carolina system, Bill Friday, called this a “monumental achievement” and a milestone in the history of scholar athletes. The ruling further solidified the role of college presidents as the owners of responsibility and authority to ensure the primacy of scholarship in collegiate athletics.

The Knight Commission’s work embodies Creed’s value-driven life, and his high expectations, of himself and others. It is fitting that he was engaged with the commission’s work until his final days. What he began will continue to impact people’s lives and values in the future.

All of us at Knight Foundation feel the loss and extend our sympathy to Elsa and all of Creed’s children. Creed’s life, leadership and passions intertwined with Knight Foundation’s – and we are all the better for it.

— Alberto Ibargüen

A Memorial Service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, August 20th at the Kendall United Methodist Church, 7600 SW 104th Street, Miami. Interment will occur later, in Paducah, Kentucky, Creed’s home town.

Postscript: Several distinguished individuals from media and South Florida spoke at the memorial service for Mr. Black. These include David Lawrence Jr., former Miami Herald Publisher; and Rolfe Neill, Knight Foundation Trustee and former publisher of The Charlotte Observer. In addition, Rod Petrey, former chief counsel to Knight Foundation, of Holland and Knight, offered a remembrance of Creed.