Longtime Monitor writer Luix V. Overbea: an appreciation

During his 21-year career at The Christian Science Monitor, Luix V. Overbea, who died July 10, served as a newspaper reporter, an on-air television host, and as vice president for community relations for the Monitor’s broadcast operations.

By , Washington Bureau Chief

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    Luix V. Overbea.
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During his 21-year career at The Christian Science Monitor, Luix V. Overbea served as a newspaper reporter, an on-air television host, and as vice president for community relations for the Monitor’s broadcast operations.

Beyond those professional contributions, he brought quiet courage and unfailing grace to the role of newsroom pioneer when, in 1971, he became the Monitor’s second African-American staff reporter. It was a pioneering role Mr. Overbea also played at the Winston-Salem Journal when he was hired in 1955 to replace the paper’s only black reporter to write for what was called the “Negro page.”

Overbea, who died July 10, "exemplified the straightforward, balanced, thoughtful style of a Monitor journalist,” said Monitor Editor John Yemma. “During inner-city Boston's tumultuous reaction to court-ordered school desegregation in the 1970s, he was a careful analyst of the complex forces at work and a clear-eyed chronicler of history as it transpired.”

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While he faced discrimination in his early career, Overbea appeared singularly free of bitterness. Instead, he was committed to helping others find their place in the news business. In 1975 he was a cofounder of the National Association of Black Journalists. The organization honored him with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993.

He was also a joyful mentor in the Monitor newsroom. When former Monitor Editor Paul Van Slambrouck joined the staff, hisdesk was close to Overbea’s. “As I slowly made inroads into my new beat as suburban reporter, I inevitably got into subjects that came close to stepping on his toes. Any veteran reporter, which he was, would have come down hard on a rookie like me. But not Luix. He was the consummate gentleman: helpful, jovial and knowledgeable. Two labels come to mind: old-school and class act.”

Already a seasoned professional when he joined the Monitor, Overbea brought his own unique operating style, notes Monitor Weekly senior editor Scott Armstrong. “He worked sources with a Southern graciousness. He would have a friendly, sometimes long, chat with them before he got down to the business of asking the tough or personal questions. It didn't come off as a calculating way to elicit information. It's just the way Luix was:­ warm and engaging. He was the same way with young 'copy kids' or rookie reporters."

Beyond his expertise in urban issues and race relations, Overbea had wide-ranging interests. As a sports reporter, Overbea referred to Winston-Salem State University basketball player Earl Monroe’s scores as “earl’s pearls” during the 1966-67 basketball season. The nickname “Earl the Pearl” followed Monroe during his NBA career with the Baltimore Bullets and the New York Knicks.

Although he made his living with prose, Overbea, a Northwestern University graduate, had a volume of poems entitled “Poets on the Horizon” published in 1988. One of his poems, “Hometown,” is engraved on a monument outside the Roxbury Crossing T station in Boston.

In 1989, Overbea left the newsroom for the Monitor’s television activities, both hosting and helping produce a weekly urban affairs broadcast called “Inner City Beat.” That television adventure led to his final position at the Monitor as vice president of community relations for the Monitor Channel and Boston station WQTV. He retired when the Monitor Channel ceased operations in 1992.

“I often saw him in retirement with his grandchildren, happy as ever,” said Clay Jones, the Monitor’s chief editorial writer. “He was a great help to the many reporters like me who covered the first day of forced busing in Boston in the mid-1970s, when blacks and whites were at war. Luix’s calm was always in evidence in the way he did any story. That calmness served as a bridge between the races.”

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