Joy Darrow, 2018
Born in White Fish Bay, Wisconsin, Darrow was a journalism graduate from Marquette University and later in life received her master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Arts from Columbia College, where she also taught journalism courses part-time over the years and served as associate director of public relations in 1984-87.
From 1962-65, Darrow was managing editor of a suburban Chicago newspaper chain. She worked as an urban affairs reporter for the Chicago Tribune from 1965-1970, and in 1970 received a Harvard University/Urban America City Planning Fellowship for a housing survey of Russia, Finland, Scandinavia, France, England and the U.S.. Darrow also was editor of an award-winning book by Dempsey Travis ( An Autobiography of Black Chicago ) , and she worked with Travis on many projects. As a journalist, she covered many historic events, including the Selma to Montgomery civil-rights march and the 1968 Democratic National Convention. She was communications director of the United Mortgage Bankers of America from 1972-74, and was a lobbyist for several Black professional groups in Washington, D.C.
Darrow was managing editor of the Chicago Defender, the country’s only Black daily newspaper, from 1972-1984. She was a press aide to both mayors Jane Byrne and Harold Washington (1983-84). In her later years, she was a freelance photojournalist and a real estate agent at Century 21 in Hyde Park.
Darrow served on the 1974 Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Red-Lining and Fair Housing, and received the University of Missouri Journalism School Unity Award for Race Relations in 1976. Her Defender series ‘Black Chicago: How It Works,’ won a Stick O’Type Award in 1976, the same year she won a United Press International Award for Investigative Journalism.
Darrow was a world traveler, interviewing Fidel Castro in the mountains of Cuba before the 1959 revolution. She also trekked to China, Russia, India, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Israel, Honduras, Jamaica, Anguilla, Austria, Germany, all over the United States, and in the 1990’s to Haiti and the Dominican Republic as an election monitor.
In 1986, she completed a photojournalism series on Honduras and Nicaragua for the Defender and in 1989 she received a Travel Fellowship for a photographic tour of China.
Darrow was also interested in teenagers and youth issues. She served as editorial director of Youth Communication’s New Expression newspaper for several years and during her tenure there received a 1990 annual ACLU award for Freedom of Rights.
In 1990, she was a founding member of TOUCH, The Organization for Universal Communal Harmony, with headquarters in India, London, Chicago and New York.
The grand-niece of Clarence Darrow, Joy Darrow served on the boards of numerous groups, including the Clarence Darrow Foundation, which helped pioneering efforts at tenant-self-rule at the LeClaire Court housing complex, and the Peace Museum.
In 1976 and 1981, Darrow was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and served on a Pulitzer Prize judging committee in 1982-83.
Darrow was also interested in environmental issues. She founded Environment, Inc,. an environmental consulting firm affiliated with R. Buckminster Fuller in 1970-72.
Her lifelong interest in painting, photography and the arts sparked her founding of the Prairie Avenue Gallery in 1986. She curated exhibits on the Vietnam War, AIDS, Black photographers, American Indians, Asian Indians, the 1960s, the environment and more. She also produced two 30-minute films and two cable TV shows on urban problems and the arts.
Besides her numerous professional and personal accomplishments, she is remembered for the love and attention she gave her family, her entertaining parties, her willingness to open her home to strangers and friends. She was known and loved by thousands of people, from her close family to friends around the world.