Maynard Eaton, multi-award-winning journalist and media communications professional, with a career spanning over five decades, died late Tuesday evening in his sleep after a brief battle with lung cancer, according to his family. Eaton, 73, has left a legacy of impactful reporting and social change that includes his time as a reporter for The Atlanta Voice.
Most recently Eaton served as Endowed Professor, Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications at Hampton University.
Eaton began his career in 1970 after graduating from Hampton Institute’s Mass Media Arts Program, as WVEC-TV’s first African American newsman. In 2022, Eaton came full-circle with his appointment as Endowed Professor of Journalism at Hampton University.
During his occupation, Eaton has been recognized as a broadcast journalist, political columnist, media/ public relations consultant, free-lance writer, executive editor. Eaton’s most enduring legacy will be the plethora of journalists he has trained and mentored during tenures as a professor at both Clark-Atlanta and Hampton universities.
An EMMY Award-winning television news reporter, Eaton was in the vanguard of America’s first Black news reporters on prime time television, and was distinguished as one of the Country’s most influential media professionals.
He conducted innumerable high-profile interviews throughout his career, including heads of state, political luminaries, renowned entertainers and athletes, and Civil Rights heroes. He most recently wrote feature articles for the Spelman College Messenger, and NABJ’s Black News & Views.
Eaton served as National Communications Director for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Dr. Martin Luther King’s Legacy Organization.
SCLC President Dr. Charles Steele worked with Eaton for over a decade. “He brought his journalism skills to SCLC and an insight and expertise that is irreplaceable,” asserts Steele. “He was committed to telling the story of the Movement and I will always remember with appreciation his dedication to his craft”.
Known for his news reporting at Atlanta City Hall, as well as under the gold dome of Georgia’s Capitol, Maynard Eaton provided unprecedented news content and coverage. His television news reporting era forever endeared him to the citizens of Atlanta, and they continue to hail him in the streets of Atlanta and throughout the South.
Eaton garnered numerous awards and accolades during his illustrious career. In 2008 he was named Journalist of the Year by the Rainbow/PUSH civil rights group. From 1978 to 1986, Eaton was a multi-award winning political reporter for WXIA-TV in Atlanta.
He won eight EMMY Awards for television news reporting/writing, while at WXIA, WPLG-TV in Miami and WVEC-TV in Hampton. He was also honored for his work as a political commentator for WTLK-TV and WATL-TV in Atlanta; a producer/reporter for World News Monitor; southeast field producer for USA Today and BET television; and writer/talent for Ebony Journal and Prime Time, two highly regarded and locally produced television magazine shows.
In addition to honors in broadcasting, Eaton won two Atlanta Association of Black Journalist awards for his excellence in writing and reporting, including the Journalist of the Year award in 1985 from the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists (AABJ) and several significant honors from the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ).
He received honors from Communication Excellence to Black Audiences (CEBA), and three writing awards from the Associated Press. He landed an honor with the National Newspaper Publishers Award (NNPA) in 2007; a coveted Gannett News Service reporting award and, for many years, was named on the list of prestigious individuals with Who’s Who in Black Atlanta. Eaton also wrote cover stories for that prestigious publication on Ambassador Andrew Young, civil rights icons Rev. Joseph Lowery, Rev. Ralph David Abernathy and Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin.
Eaton received his Master of Arts degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he was mentored by the late Fred Friendly (former president of CBS News), and holds a BA degree in Mass Media Arts from Hampton Institute.