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The First Black Woman To Own a TV Station Clara McLaughlin Was a Member of Zeta Phi Beta

Did you know that the first black woman to own a television station was a member of Zeta Phi Beta? Clara McLaughlin was a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

Born in Brunswick, Georgia, and raised in Gainesville, Florida, Clara’s passion for journalism ignited during her high school years. She wrote, produced, and distributed the school’s only student newsletter, laying the foundation for her future career. After high school, she attended Hampton Institute in Virginia, majoring in music before joining the U.S. Navy WAVES and working as a yeoman and organist in the navy chapel. Clara utilized her GI Bill benefits to further her education, leading her to Howard University in Washington, D.C.

At Howard, Clara initiated steps to establish journalism as a major, graduating with honors and becoming one of the founders of the National Black Communications Society. She pledged Zeta Phi Beta after finishing her undergraduate studies. Her leadership skills were evident as she served as co-editor-in-chief and later editor-in-chief of the university’s yearbook, helping Howard become the first HBCU to win the All American Award for a student publication.

Clara’s groundbreaking achievement came in 1979 when she successfully petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to approve a television allocation in Houston, aiming to portray women and minorities positively. She founded KLMG, a CBS-affiliated television station in Longview, Texas, becoming the first African American woman to own and operate a network-affiliated TV station. Her pioneering efforts set a precedent for minority representation in the media.

From 2002 until her passing in 2021, Clara owned and published The Florida Star, the oldest African American-owned newspaper in Northeast Florida, and launched The Georgia Star in 2005. She hosted a weekly radio talk show, IMPACT, and was a media participant on Jacksonville’s PBS affiliate “Week in Review.” Clara’s contributions to media extended to childcare programs on Houston’s PBS affiliate, KUHT.

Throughout her illustrious career, Clara received numerous honors and awards, including the Distinguished Alumni Award from Howard University and the national Drum Major for Justice Award from the SCLC. The city of Houston honored her with two Clara McLaughlin Days, and she was featured in major publications like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Clara’s legacy as a media trailblazer continues to inspire future generations.

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