Charles LeRoy Black


Charles Black, who made at least five trips to cover the war in Vietnam as a Columbus Enquirer staffer, was the subject of a masters thesis done at the University of Georgia School of Journalism by Maj. Ned Baxter Ennis. It's called, “Charlie Black: The Ernie Pyle of the Vietnam War.”

Like the great World War II syndicated columnist, Charles LeRoy Black, Jr. reported on activities of ordinary soldiers. Unlike reporters who relied on Saigon briefings, he lived and fought with the troops, sharing with his readers the nitty-gritty of war.

His articles were filled with names. Anxious Air Calvary Division families in this area, to whom so many of those awful killed-in-action telegrams came, read every word.

Charlie Black was a common man. He was remarkably self-educated. He was an undisciplined adventurer. He was a friend to privates and generals.

Charlie fought as a U.S. Marine in some of the most ferocious battles of World War II. Recalled to the Marines in the Korean War, he took part in the risky amphibious landing at Inchon. In the same unit was his younger brother, Bob, who later was killed in action. Charlie assumed the grim task of carrying his brother's body from the battlefield.

Born in 1923, Charlie grew up simply in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. Although the Irish in him showed itself through his quick impish smile, he was five-eighths Indian.

His varied jobs included ironworking and welding. A Columbus Enquirer staffer from 1963 to 1974, Charlie was one of the fastest and most prolific producers of news copy ever to work at the newspaper. (Later he was Valley Times-News editor in Lanett, Ala.)

Local notoriety first came when he climbed WRBL-TV’s 185-foot tower to rescue a troubled young soldier who at first tried to pull Charlie himself off the structure.

After several Vietnam trips, Charlie was in demand as a speaker. He could make a stirring talk without preparation or notes.

Millard Grimes, who was Charlie's friend and editor wrote in his book, “The Last Linotype,” that he was the greatest reporter of the Vietnam War.

Bob Poos of the Associated Press, also a Vietnam War correspondent, wrote that “the wonder of it all was that Charlie Black lived long enough to die peaceably at home...” That happened Oct. 18,1982.

Excerpted from the program for the 1988 honorees into the Georgia Newspaper Hall of Fame by the Georgia Press Association, February 26, 1988.

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