Hallie Almena Davis was born on July 23, 1915, in Galveston, Texas. Her father was a postal deliveryman and her mother was a full-time seamstress. In 1917 the Davis family relocated to Chicago briefly before permanently settling in California in the early 1920s.
In 1933, Davis graduated from Jordan High School in Los Angeles and soon afterward enrolled in Los Angeles City College where she majored in journalism. Davis graduated in 1938 and was hired by editor Charlotta Bass to work for the African American weekly The California Eagle.
After two years, she left to host a local radio news show, returning to print journalism in 1941 when she started the Tribune with a $100 loan from her future husband’s father, Lucius W. Lomax Sr., a gambler and businessman who owned the legendary Dunbar Hotel on Los Angeles’ Central Avenue. Lomax Jr. joined the paper as publisher in 1943 and married the editor six years later. The couple had six children before the marriage ended in 1960.
Throughout the 1940s and into the 1950s, the Los Angeles Tribune, a feisty weekly newspaper that served the African American community, attained great popularity and eventually rivaled the much older California Eagle and the Los Angeles Sentinel, the other black newspapers in the city.
Lomax had a reputation as a hard-hitting journalist willing to stir controversy with stories on such topics as racial discrimination in Hollywood and police mistreatment of blacks.
In 1956 Lomax left her husband and six children for a week to cover the bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., where she met its leader, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Tribune subscribers subsidized her trip, but her husband disapproved and the marriage began to crumble.
The couple divorced in 1959. The following year she closed the Tribune and left for Tuskegee, Ala., with her children — who ranged in age from 4 to 16 — in an old Lincoln that broke down outside Blythe, Calif. They made the rest of the journey by Greyhound bus.
Their first encounter with segregation came at the bus station in Big Spring, Texas. Lomax refused to take her hungry brood into the lunchroom reserved for blacks. Instead, she marched them into the whites-only dining room. “I don’t intend to be Jim Crowed,” she told the manager. She was denied service but stood her ground, even when four police officers arrived.
No harm came to Lomax and her family, but the firsthand experiences with brute racism “traumatized the six of us,” son Michael said of his brothers and sisters.
“It was one of the regrets she carried her entire life,” he said of the impact of his mother’s decision to take them into the trenches of the civil rights movement. “On the other hand, it was the story of her lifetime, and she tried very hard to tell it.”
From Tuskegee she continued to write articles for national magazines such as The Nation.
Later in the decade she led protests against an array of Hollywood motion pictures that she and others felt promoted damaging representations of African Americans. Two of those films were “Porgy and Bess” and “Imitation of Life.”
In 1969 she returned to California as a copy editor for the San Francisco Chronicle and later as a reporter for its competitor the San Francisco Examiner, where she covered the kidnapping of Patty Hearst and the hunt for black revolutionary Angela Davis.
Her work also appeared in Harpers and Ebony.
Lomax continued to write on political and social events into the 1990s. Her career ended when she developed poor eyesight.
*Hall of Fame inductees are selected annually by a committee appointed by the California Press Foundation. They recognize career achievements of weekly and daily publishers in California who were important and influential in their era, as judged by their peers in the association. The write-ups are a historical and journalistic snapshot in time and not official biographies.*