As a writer and editor in the 1950s and ’60s, Lerone Bennett Jr. penned passionate essays on race, culture and politics for EBONY. As an author, he joined an elite circle of cultural influencers, including poet Gwendolyn Brooks, historian John Henrik Clarke and writer Amiri Baraka. And as a social historian, he cemented his influence in academia with Before the Mayflower (1962), which became necessary reading in many schools. Bennett was born on Oct. 17, 1928, in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He graduated from Morehouse College and later migrated to Chicago, where he formed an alliance with EBONY founder John H. Johnson. After working as a JET editor for two years, he joined EBONY as an associate editor in 1954, eventually ascending to the title of executive editor. He stayed with the publication for 52 years. Throughout that time, the scholar never stopped using his books—he wrote more than 10—and the pages of EBONY to speak about social issues and to demand justice for past infractions. He told one publication, "Before I was 10, I fell in love with the word. To this day, I have this passion... I believed the word was one of the few weapons available to save my life and my people’s lives.” Bennett died in Chicago on Feb. 14. He was 89.