A Story of Donald Suggs and Bob Cohn
as told by Jim Stone Goodman

Heschel King Award
January 24, 2010

He wanted to be an attorney
Or a journalist
He became both
At ten years old
He published the Cohn Times
Circulation of four
He pounded it out on his Mom’s
Underwood typewriter
His Dad read the editorials
And looked at the cartoons

A kid -- He worked at the Tom Tom
University City high school paper.

Adult -- He edited the Jewish Light.
He brought enthusiasm for
The life of the Jewish mind
The sense that Jewish culture
Is a lively
Culture of dialogue
The mix of ideas
And most of all
That clearly
Animated him
And switched on his readers.

He wrote about culture
As a lover of culture

He brought the life of a Jewish creative mind
To the newspaper.
It was St. Louis, Missouri
1967 to the present
but to Bob Cohn
it was Vilna
in its Yiddish period
Berlin before the War
But it was the United States
And we were free here to be
On fire with Jewish life
as remembered in its

He was editor of the undergraduate paper of Student Life
At Washington University
’57 to ’61.

He studied political science and philosophy
received his law degree in ‘64
all at Washington U.

He went to Delmar Harvard elementary school
He is a member of University City high school
hall of fame
which I believe he takes
he remembers University City
as the environment of the kind of culture
he thrived on.
He remembers.

I am a total St. Louis kid.

Imagine now his voice
Which is easy to do if you’ve ever
Had a conversation with him:

I was present for the civil rights movement
the creation of MLK jr. celebration
and the birth of rock n roll

Santoro’s do you remember Santoro’s?
We called on Mr. Santoro to integrate

I went to law school
Edited the Law school newspaper
Senior year in law school
I don’t know what to do
Joe Holland – general counsel for the Post Dispatch
If you go into law
You’ll appreciate your journalism background
If you go into journalism
You’ll appreciate your law background.

He introduced me around the P-D
Art Bertelson
Selwyn Pepper
Then I got a call from Larry Roos
I didn’t think a Republican would be interested in me
I sent him a letter and a copy of an article
A liberal republican
Remember those?
and an honest politician to boot
As long as you don’t embarrass me publicly
What you do in the voting booth

Is your own business.

I went to work for Larry Roos.

He assigned me all the liberal causes
I also staffed the county
Human relations commission.

I was an administrative assistant to Roos
Staff attorney
Press secretary
Speech writer
I got to use my entire background
I stayed for five happy years.

Mike Newmark approached me
How would you like to be editor of the Jewish Light?
How would you like to be the
Easter bunny?
but they convinced me.

I worked with a staffer for the Human Rights
We got federal funding to repave those neighborhoods
The small Black enclaves
I worked closely with Georgia Rusan
Your awardee last year

I can show my grand kids
Look – I worked on these roads

First item for Human Relations Commission
Public accommodations
Movie theaters restaurants etc.
Seems so obvious now
It wasn’t then.

Within my lifetime
It has become the norm.
I remember.

The next thing was
Open housing.

I’m still chairing Human Rights Commission
We meet six or eight times a year
I’ve been there since 1964
I’ve already had my fiftieth anniversary
It gave me the feeling
I’m doing something
To give back.

Do you know what it feels like
To hold a newspaper in your hands
When it first comes out?
To wait for it?
To run into World News –
Is this paper here Yet?
To a person of a certain
There’s nothing like
That’s where I come from –

My Dad died when he was 54
The last Jewish thing he could do with me
I was in Rabbi Gordon’s
Confirmation class
Oh my God –
We killed him.

When Rabbi Gordon died
It left a real emptiness in

My mother went to B’nai Amoona

Later I walked across the street and talked
To Marvin Waltz
I would like to start teaching
As a living memorial to my father
That was 1962
I am honoring my mother and father

I teach children in honor of my father
I teach adults in honor of my mother

Return to My voice now:
You know
Robert Cohn’s voice
It’s enthusiastic
It loves stories and ideas and books and movies
And newspapers

Most of all,
he remembers

He loves culture
The creation of Jewish culture
In its higher forms
He likes to mix it up
In ideas

He has contributed to our culture here
It’s St. Louis 2010
But to Bob Cohn
It might be
Jerusalem even

Those places
Where we Jews created
Not just books and songs and movies and poems
But culture
A high standard we keep

Bob Cohn loves
To talk about it
Write about it
Most of all
He knows how important it is
To remember.

He remembers
He remembers everything

Dr. Donald  Suggs

His voice:

I’m not sure I’m worthy of this
But –
Well, I don’t know if I have
Much to say

All right
What do you want to know—

My voice:

Then he talked for an hour

His voice:

Our niche here at the American
Is hyper local stuff
These stories need to be told
We’re interested in education

My father went to the fourth grade
But he had good work habits
I grew up in East Chicago
Next to
Gary Indiana
In summers I spent
With my grandmother
On the south side of Chicago

A working class community
Racial separation was the norm
It was physical
But in our blue collar town
It was integrated somewhat
No black teachers but my teachers
Took an interest in me
-- Brown, she was Jewish

My mother was a Pentecostal
My father a Darwinist
Secular but not anti-religion
He worked in a steel mill
He had a job
This allowed the family to stay together

I am the first in my family to finish
High school
My mother
Was a Jewish mother

Mother – I’m going to run for secretary
No son, you should be president.

If you’re Black
It’s clear you’re the other
You’re measured by how much
Your conduct reflects on your people
It’s part of being a minority
And people begin to accept
The feeling that others have
About themselves

My father was a brilliant man
But my mother was more --
We lose lots of bright people
Because they grow up believing
What others feel about

Here the underclass
Has no economic utility

I grew up in an integrated community
When I decided on a profession
There was one guy in town who was
A dentist
I’ll be a dentist
He was an athlete and
OK -- I’ll be a dentist


I was admitted to dental school
I wasn’t so fond of it
There was a field called oral surgery
That was a little different

When I finished I got an offer
To go Lincoln Hospital
New York
I was a New York-a-phile
I loved music and all the jazz musicians
Were there

What we had in common
Was an interest in music
Blues and jazz
All my Black friends
Had these interests

But I never had a Black teacher
All through college and
Dental school.

I came over here
Homer Phillips Hospital
I saw Black doctors
I had never seen Black doctors
I was here for two years
Did some graduate work
At Washington University

I went to the Air Force
I came back here
At the time there was a full
Dental school at Washington University
They weren’t ready for a black teacher
They withdrew the offer they made to me
I had a wife
A new child
It was the early 60’s

I had three children in
North St. Louis
Two bedroom house

I had to move
Pressure in the neighborhood
I didn’t feel safe

Moved to University City

One day I woke up and realized
I had to make a living
I opened up a practice
I wanted my kids to have the best education

We put them in schools in West County and such
A few years in University City
They later told me that
U. City was their best experience

They went to boarding school
in Boston
I started to earn a little
An oral surgeon
I have my father’s work habits
I go early
And stay late.

I spent all my money on
My kids’ education

The civil rights movement started
To peter out
One of my best friends was a painter
I got interested in African art and such
Searching for a sense of self

Where do I belong --

I discovered a lot at that point
Through my friends primarily
They’re more creative
Than I am

I began buying and selling African art
That took me to New York more often
I sold my interest in the Alexander Suggs
Joined the board at Center for African art
I was the poor person on the board

I was always interested in Policy
Institutional change
I thought my business skills were limited
You don’t have to think much about that
As an oral surgeon

The American formed in 1928
St. Louis Argus was older more established
St. Louis American
I knew the people
Nobody was telling Black stories

At one time Black newspapers
Were relevant in the community
In Chicago the Chicago Defender
I remember the Defender
We always had newspapers in the house

I wanted to be involved
I think a newspaper
If well done
Is progressive
I was told:
That’s a waste of time

I made a bid
They didn’t sell it to me

Then there was three of us
I was edgier
Had no business model

Several years later
In Debt
I’m divorced

That’s why growing up a certain way
Is really helpful

I sold my automobile
Moved into an apartment
I had a card table
A futon
A black and white TV
I’m in my late Forties

Slowly slowly
We put it back together

We’re one of a handful of African American newspapers
With some success

We have an internet strategy
It took a long time

The basic plan:
Create value for the reader
And the advertisers

I feel pretty much like when I was growing up
You have to find these things
Within yourself
Nobody’s going to do it for you

I remember

When my mother was born
As a poor black child in Mississippi
Her life expectancy was 50 or 55 years
Community newspapers
Like Jewish Light
Speaks directly to a community
It’s like a family
The American
It’s an African American perspective
Not a single perspective
Even though we’re part of another community as well

I’m so proud of my children
Old people like me talk about our children
We were raised this way
We value people
We remember
Human beings you can take them as they come
As individuals.
People who have reached their hand out to me in my life
That’s the way I raised my children
And they are that way today.

I am a beneficiary of a special set of circumstances
I know so many people more talented
More able more deserving
Than I am

There are better people
For this award

But I’m honored.



james stone goodman
united states of america