From the Oakland Tribune
Oakland newsman Bailey to be laid to rest Wednesday
By Kristin Bender, STAFF WRITER - OAKLAND TRIBUNE
Article Last Updated: 08/07/2007 02:47:50 AM PDT
It was in 1973 when Chauncey Bailey asked his journalism teacher at Merritt College for some career advice that would forever change the coverage of African-American issues in Oakland and make Mr. Bailey a noted and constant presence in print, radio and television here for the past 15 years.
Back then, Mr. Bailey had recently earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from San Jose State University but, not unlike many young people, he wasn't quite sure what to do next.
"He asked me, 'Should I join the Black Panther Party or go into the newspaper business?" said Bailey's former journalism instructor Charles Aikens, who worked as a sports writer for the Oakland Tribune in the late 1960s. "I said, 'It would be better to get that daily newspaper experience and bring the skills you learn out there back to your community."
And so it began.
A reporting career that spanned the globe and lasted more than three decades ended last Thursday morning when Mr. Bailey, editor of the Oakland Post and a former reporter at the Oakland Tribune for 12 years, was ambushed and killed by a masked gunman who shot him several times while he was walking on 14th Street near Alice Street on his way to the Post newsroom two blocks away.
He will be laid to rest on Wednesday at a funeral that organizers expect will draw 500 people. Sen. Hillary Clinton is sending a letter of condolence and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office has indicated that he may attend, said funeral
organizer Gay Cobb, CEO of the Oakland Private Industry Council.
When he walked to work last Thursday, Mr. Bailey was dressed in his customary smart business attire. He had just eaten breakfast at a nearby McDonald's restaurant and, not surprisingly, was readying for the news of the day, carrying a stack of daily newspapers.
"He loved anything about journalism," said his sister Lorelei Waqia, 58, of Lithonia, Ga. "He changed so many people's lives by introducing them to reading the newspaper."
After college graduation, Mr. Bailey simultaneously wrote for the Oakland Post and was an on-air reporter for San Jose-based KNTV television in 1970 and 1971 before working for three years at the Sun Reporter newspaper in San Francisco.
From there, he went to a three-year stint at the Hartford (Conn.) Courant and then spent a year on the rewrite desk at United Press International in Chicago.
He wrote news and features for the Oakland-based California Voice from late 1978 to late 1980 before returning to Chicago as a publicist for a nonprofit research and advocacy group focused on education and health care for urban residents. He spent a year in Washington, D.C. as press secretary to Rep. Gus Savage, D-Ill.
Then began his decade-long stint as a reporter and columnist for the Detroit News, covering city government, special projects and features.
One day, while riding a public transit bus in Detroit, Mr. Bailey noticed none of the passengers were reading a newspaper, but rather staring blankly out the windows, his sister recalled.
The next morning, Mr. Bailey boarded the bus with five different newspapers, handing out a section each to every passenger.
"He continued doing that for a long time," Waqia said.
In 1993, Mr. Bailey began his 12-year run covering East Oakland and African-American community affairs for the Oakland Tribune.
Mr. Bailey didn't focus on City Hall meetings or crime in the black community, but rather wrote about new African-American owned businesses and restaurants, social programs for blacks, teen scholars and other positive and uplifting news.
"(African-American) voices would've never been heard. Never. He constantly — constantly — let the community know (by saying) 'Listen, there are services out here for you, there are people out here for you,' " said Donna Ayo, a founder of the youth-focused community group Brave Academic Rise of N'Powered Students, who knew Mr. Bailey for 14 years.
"I can't extend my love no greater than that toward an individual who gave, gave, gave," Ayo said.
Bailey was released by the Tribune in June 2005 due to conflict-of-interest issues, and was named editor of the Oakland Post this summer after writing freelance travel stories for the African American weekly for about two years.
While at the Tribune, Mr. Bailey also worked as news director at the East Bay's black-oriented KSBT Soul Beat Television, earning a reputation as a probing interviewer and commentator.
After trying unsuccessfully to buy Soul Beat in 2003, Bailey quit the program, which was canceled a year later. In late 2004, he founded OUR-TV — Opportunities in Urban Renaissance Television. Soon after he went to work for the Post.
Friend and colleague Derrick Nesbitt worked with Mr. Bailey at Soul Beat as sports director from many years.
"He bailed me out so many different times," Nesbitt, 46, said Monday.
He recalled a news conference following the 1997 choking incident between former Golden State Warriors head coach P.J. Carlesimo and former Warriors player Latrell Sprewell.
Nesbitt was chosen to ask the first question of Billy Hunter, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, but he said he blanked out and forgot his question.
Mr. Bailey piped up quickly and — jokingly — asked Hunter why there were no blacks in the National Hockey League, drawing laughter from the group of reporters and deflecting attention away from Nesbitt's gaff.
"He was my go-to guy," Nesbitt said. "What am I going to do now? But he taught me well."
Last Thursday, Mr. Bailey was slated to speak to a group of 12-year-olds headed to play in the Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth World Series in Aberdine, Md.
Nesbitt spoke on his behalf.
"When we tell kids never to give up, we're not really talking about the game (of baseball). It's (a lesson) for later in life," Nesbitt said. "Chauncey never gave up on (Oakland) ... he was the epitome of a life lesson."
Mr. Bailey was quick to encourage young journalists, especially African Americans, to follow his passion for covering the news. He worked with OCCUR — Oakland Citizens Committee for Urban Renewal — mentoring young people who aspired to journalism careers.
"Instead of just one biological son, he has 50 or so. Even though he's gone, he lives on through the people he mentored," sister Waqia said.
Bailey grew up in Oakland, earned a degree from Merritt College in 1968 and a bachelor's degree from San Jose State in 1972. He also attended a Columbia University summer program for minority journalists in 1974.
He was married but split amicably from his wife about a decade ago.
The two have a son, 13, together.
"He loved him, he was everything to him. He tried to open him up to a lot of different things. He wanted him to be as well rounded as possible," Waqia said.
His brother Errol Cooley of Lincoln, Ca. didn't talk to his younger brother that often. Mr. Bailey was usually chasing a story and had no time for small talk, Cooley said.
"His career was his family," Cooley said.
But two days before he was gunned down, Mr. Bailey called his brother to wish him a belated happy birthday.
"I told him I'd be seeing him real soon," Cooley said.
Both siblings said Mr. Bailey never talked about what he was reporting on for the Oakland Post — reportedly stories about the Black Muslim Bakery's financial woes and the group's problems with violence. Nor did say he thought his life was in danger.
"He never talked about threats," Cooley said.
Mr. Bailey was slated to return to Vietnam this week to continue reporting on the development of the country and it's people — work that he had started earlier this year, said Post Publisher Paul Cobb.
People in Oakland's Vietnamese community have offered to help out with Wednesday's services as has Michael Morgan, director of the Oakland East Bay Symphony, which will perform at the service. Oakland real estate agent Mario Juarez, who initially put up a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the killer, is now putting the money into an educational fund because a suspect is now in custody.
The family asks that donations, in lieu of flowers, be sent to the Chauncey Bailey Memorial Fund, c/o Bank of America Creekside Branch, 1188 Galleria Blvd. Roseville, CA 95678. Account No. 2350941279.
In addition to Waqia and Cooley, Mr. Bailey is survived by his father, Chauncey Bailey Sr., of Des Moines, Iowa; brother Mark Cooley of Modesto; and dozens of cousins and other relatives. His mother Brigette King preceded him in death in 2003.
A funeral Mass is at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Benedict's Catholic Church, 2245 82nd Ave. in East Oakland. Catholic Diocese of Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron will participate in the funeral service.
Managing Editor Martin G. Reynolds and staff writers Josh Richman and Douglas Fischer contributed to this report.
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