Last week Chet Fuller passed away at the age of 72. An author and journalist, Fuller, who I always called “Mr. Fuller, impacted an innumerable number of Black reporters and editors in Atlanta during his illustrious and award-winning career.
For me, the impact that Mr. Fuller had on my career could be summed up by a phone call that I missed more than a decade ago. The voice message that he left instructed me to come down to the Clayton News Daily building in downtown Jonesboro the next day to talk. I had recently submitted a packet of clips and a resume in immediate response to a job opening that was advertised in the paper a few days earlier. Instead of mailing the clips to the newspaper I drove to the office and dropped it off at the front desk. Mr. Fuller thought highly of my old school approach and made the phone call that helped change my career. After returning the call, meeting him a day later and posing for a press pass, I was on my way to covering high school sports for him in both Clayton and Henry Counties.
Fuller began his 26-year career at the Atlanta Journal Constitution in the early 70’s and would begin as a reporter and close that chapter as an editor. In between he would write columns, such as the Urban Spotlight column that spoke of the Black experience in Atlanta. His 1981 book, I Hear Them Calling My Name, originated from his 1979 series of stories for the Atlanta Journal Constitution on traveling through the south as an unemployed Black man, “A Black Man’s Diary.” That kind of on-the-ground reporting inspired me to want to become a better journalist. Mr. Fuller made me a better journalist. For a young man new to Georgia and new to newspapers, he was a much needed no-nonsense mentor.
Following his career at the AJC, where he was one of the first full-time Black reporters, Fuller went on to lead the newsroom at the Atlanta Daily World before moving to the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. Throughout my career I worked at all three newspapers. To say I followed in Mr. Fuller’s footsteps would be right, but I like to think I stayed in his shadow. I remained close enough to watch, listen and learn from one of the best in the business.
Among his many awards, Fuller won a Green Eyeshade Award for “A Black Man’s Diary” in 1979. I won my first Green Eyeshade Award in 2021. I am still in his shadow. I dedicate my award to him. Thank you and farewell Mr. Fuller.