By Curtis Knowles, Morgan State University Student
As a child, Ron Aaron Taylor said nothing truly demanded his energy. Taylor eventually found his passion for the world of journalism, becoming a reporter at the age of 19, and 50 years later he is still assisting in the cultivation of the profession.
Speaking to an investigative reporting class recently at Morgan State University’s School of Global Journalism and Communication (SGJC), Taylor reflected fondly on the trials he went through in order to earn the title of journalist.
Born in 1948, Taylor claims to have not been the most macho of guys. He read books and kept to himself. His kept his studies up, which landed him at Morehouse College in Atlanta. A self-described shy person, Taylor never foresaw the profession of journalism in his future.
While in college he took a tour of the Washington Evening Star was gifted with a stereo. Stereo were the metal plates used as molds for the printing press. The stereo Taylor received contained the obituary of the late Billie Holiday. Taylor realized he held a bit of information that few other people even knew about.
As sophomore, he was working for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) passing out journalists’ credentials. Being able to hear the sermons of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was another inspiring moment for Taylor.
His summer leading into senior year, Taylor was offered a position at the News & Record newspaper in Greensboro, North Carolina. Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy had just been assassinated five days prior to Taylor’s decision, and the nation’s future was unknown.
Taylor decided to leap into the unknown.
The world of journalism wasn’t welcoming to a then novice Taylor. Walking into the newsroom he was met the sounds of dozens of typewriters click-clacking, the banging of the printing press, the ringing of land line telephones and the shouts of journalists asking random questions. Thick cigarette smoke hung in the air and Taylor compared the newsroom floor to an “ashtray.”
Soon he moved to the Washington Post and remained there from 1971 to 1975. Taylor also worked for the Bureau of National Affairs as a business writer. Taylor’s career took him many places and put him in his fair share of dicey situations.
In 1975, Taylor was assigned to cover the riot at the D.C. Jail. Taylor was selected to be a part of a press barrier between the inmates and the police. Taylor got on a bus with prisoners as they were heading to the court house to air their grievances.
Taylor sat next to one of the inmates and the man wouldn’t give him room to sit down. At first Taylor believed he just didn’t want to talk. He then realized that this particular inmate had a pistol in his waist band. In that moment Taylor’s fear surged through him: “I thought to myself, this brother is going to get shot, and he is going to fall on me.”
The ordeal left Taylor rattled to say the least. Taylor also said a man he was interviewing was growing marijuana plants in his field and also making moonshine with a still. He was walking with a White man who was with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation when the man suddenly drew his gun and fired.
“Now, me a being a Black man in southern Georgia, and a White officer just draws his gun, and shoots” recalled Taylor with ire. Turns out the officer was aiming at a copperhead snake.
Taylor is currently working at Morgan as a SGJC Fellow. He has assisted on projects such as a multimedia story about African-American women in sports for ESPN’s “The Undefeated.” He essentially acts as a super mentor to the communication students. Taylor assists students in structuring articles, conducting research and other things a man well versed in journalism could shed insight on.
“He has a knack for putting students at ease” said Assistant Dean Jackie Jones.