We hadn’t been sure how long Gainor Hackney worked for the AFRO; for most of us she came with the brick and mortar and was part of the framework that continues to support the 120-year-old, family owned and operated newspaper, probably the oldest of its kind in the country.
Executive assistant to every editor in the Baltimore office beginning in 1952 until she retired in 2008, she holds a unique history of the ins and outs, ups and downs, victories and challenges along the way, and early in the morning of April 6, she took that history with her in death.
No one who’s worked here in recent years could have avoided contact with Ms. Hackney. She knew everybody. She knew everything. And she was intricately involved in the daily operation. As for her newspaper signature, she compiled obituaries, pen pal letters, letters to the editor and composed church news, as needed. As for her claim to fame, she was also an assistant to the renowned sports writer and editor, Sam Lacy, who chronicled the sports world for the African-American community and had a pivotal role in the emergence of Jackie Robinson into major league baseball.
Her supervisors evaluated her as “keeping the office running smoothly,” and being “totally reliable.” One said she “handled work with dispatch.”
“Throughout her decades of exemplary and often challenging service in the editorial offices at the AFRO, Gainor Hackney was never shy about saying and showing that she was on the job to take care of business,” said Moses J. Newson, former AFRO executive editor.
“No one was more skilled on the telephone at tracking down newsmakers across the country. When she reached them, she'd just flash her success smile and say, ‘Pick up!’"
Newson said she was cited on many occasions for the “precise and timely manner in which she handled frequently changing assignments for the national news desk, where we worked as a team for one of her decades.”
Most importantly, Newson added, “on or off the job, Gainor was always ready to extend a cheerful and helpful hand to anyone she encountered.”
A young Gainor Rayford finished high school and college in her native West Virginia and then came to Baltimore. The AFRO was her only place of employment and quickly became her sphere of influence in many ways.
So much so that new employees thought her to be a member of the Murphy family that founded the AFRO. She knew every family member and the whole family tree. She knew every employee who came and went. And she loved the AFRO more than most anything else in her life.
“For many years, Mrs. Hackney established standards of commitment, efficiency, love and affection for the employees of the AFRO,” said Jake Oliver, publisher.
“She was everyone’s best friend and mother. For over 50 years she kept us all ‘in line.’”
Oliver said her many accomplishments rank her shoulder to shoulder with the many “AFRO giants who have contributed to the amazing heritage of this great newspaper.”
Retired production typesetter Elinor Washington said of Mrs. Hackney,"She was one of a kind." Production Manager Denise Dorsey, jokingly added, “She could talk you to death,” but on a more serious note, “She was a loyal friend and dedicated worker."
Diane Hocker, director of community and public relations, started at the AFRO in 1997.
“I immediately noticed a group of ‘older folks’ who gathered every Monday morning for coffee, donuts and especially bananas, not realizing then that I was witnessing history,” Hocker said.
“In that group was Gainor Hackney, Sam Lacy, Thomas Stockett and others. Wow, when I think back at the old days of these giants, my heart is filled with joy, just being honored to have worked with them.”
She was married for 45 years to Odis Hackney who preceded her in death. Her family members include her son, Darryl, and close friends like Marc Warren, former AFRO entertainment editor and William Hargrove, current custodian and driver.
Services begin with a wake at 10: 30 a.m., funeral following at 11, April 12, at Morton & Son’s Funeral Home, 1701 Lauren Street, Balto., Md. 21217. Interment will follow at Druid Ridge Cemetery on Reisterstown Road.