This year, several notable national Black figures passed away. Also among those we lost in 2023 are beloved and cherished members of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder community—MSR publisher emeritus Norma Jean Williams, and longtime contributor to the newspaper’s health page and revered Black community supporter Dr. Charles Crutchfield.
In addition, the Black community lost several longtime, prominent fixtures in the Twin Cities, whose contributions to our culture, history and character will be sorely missed. We highlighted a few below.
Norma Jean Williams joined the newspaper managing its backroom operations before taking on the role of vice president in 1976. During that time, she interviewed local and national celebrities such as Eartha Kitt, Rosa Parks, James Brown, and B.B. King for the newspaper. She died peacefully on June 6, at age 81, at the home of her daughter, MSR Publisher and CEO Tracey Williams-Dillard.
The tragic loss of Norma Jean Williams was followed by the death of her son, James Williams, Jr., brother of Tracey Williams-Dillard. He died on August 4. He enjoyed life, good food and had an infectious laugh that would bring a smile to those around him.
After battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for two and a half years, Dr. Charles Crutchfield III died on June 21 at the age of 62. An acclaimed Twin Cities dermatologist and part of a prominent family of physicians, Dr. Crutchfield was known for his warm and outgoing personality, his playful sense of humor, his ability to bring people together, and a penchant for embracing life to the fullest. In addition to serving as the senior medical advisor for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, he also served as the team dermatologist for the Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves, Minnesota Wild, and Minnesota Vikings.
Among those notable community members who also passed away in 2023, were local businessman, philanthropist, and humanitarian Archie Givens Jr.; master storyteller, co-founder, and president of the Black Storytellers Alliance Nothando Zulu; local music promoter and youth activist Andre “Debonaire” McNeal; as well as centenarian and Hosea Roberson.
Kirk was a WWII veteran and longtime St. Paul resident. Hosea Roberson was honored in 2022 with the Congressional Gold Medal for his service as a Montford Point Marine in WWII.
Correction: In a previous verison of this story, Gordon Kirk was incorrectly listed as having passed in 2023. Gordon Kirk is very much alive and approaching his 101st birthday. The MSR deeply apologizes for the error.