PBS anchor Gwen Ifill, former Springfield resident, remembered with U.S. stamp
SPRINGFIELD — The U.S. Postal Service’s newest “forever” stamp, featuring PBS newsperson Gwen Ifill, was officially unveiled Sunday in the atrium of the former Classical High School by Springfield Post Master Joseph Conti and the Black Leadership Alliance. Ifill graduated from the school in 1973.
On hand for the unveiling were U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal; Rhonda Brace, president of Historic Classical, Inc.; Helen Caulton-Harris, president, of the Black Leadership Alliance; Kelly Callahan, postal service station manager, and City Councilor Kateri Walsh.
The Alliance organized the official presentation in the school because Master of Ceremonies, Helen Caulton-Harris said Ifill’s legacy began here and will continue for decades.
“Her contributions to journalism and the nation will be used to educate the next generation of journalists,” she said.
Until her death in 2016, Ifill had broken barriers and set higher standards for not just black journalists but all journalists. In 1999 she was named the first black woman to moderate a weekly, nationally broadcast, issues-oriented program. She anchored and was managing editor of, “Washington Week in Review,” and in 2013 became co-anchor of the PBS NewsHour. She also appeared on numerous commercial entertainment programs as a political commentator.
Ifill was the first black woman to moderate two vice-presidential debates, one in 2004 and again in 2008. Just months before she passed away, Ifill moderated a Democratic Party primary debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernard Sanders. Between it all, she wrote a book, “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the era of Obama.”
Co-worker Eric Deggans said of Ifill, ”She developed a reputation as a tough, incisive reporter who was serious about the work, but did not take herself too seriously.”
Congressman Richard Neal, a former Springfield City Councilor and Mayor and who knew the Ifill family, agreed with Deggans’s assessment.
“The dimension she lent to PBS was great civility,” he said Sunday at the ceremony. “I always thought that what you saw on the screen was what you saw off the screen. She was always pleasant. But, she was not afraid to ask the hard questions of the day. Her contribution to PBS was superb.”
Caulton-Harris, who serves the city as the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, said in choosing Ifill as the 43rd Black History month stamp the Postal Service continued to celebrate great black icons.
“The celebration of Black History Month is served in no better way than choosing Gwen Ifill,” she said.
The Rev. Marcus McCullough now leads the congregation Ifill’s father, O. Urcille, Sr., preached for when in Springfield, the Bethel AME Church. He said Gwen Ifill fulfilled the hope and promise the church celebrates in its young.
“We take great pride as a church and a community to raise young men and women to be trailblazers like Gwen Ifill,” he said. “This represents a goal achieved, something to thank God for and, really, to motivate us to continue to do what we do.”
The Gwen Ifill “forever” stamp is available at post offices, and information of ordering first-day-of-issue postmarks and covers can be found at: https://www.uspa.com/shopstamps, and look under the “Collectors” link.