Centennial Business Hall of Fame United Way California Capital Region

The Sacramento Observer

Back to 129th Annual Dinner & Business Awards

Sacramentan of the Year
Garry Maisel
Western Health Advantage

Businessman of the Year
David Lowe

Businesswoman of the Year
Allison Otto
Otto Construction, Inc.

Entrepeneur of the Year
Mark Haney
The Growth Factory &
The Mark Haney Show

Entrepeneur of the Year
Tiffani Scott

Al Geiger Memorial Award
Mayor Pro Tem Quirina Orozco
Sacramento County District Attorney’s
Office & West Sacramento City Council

Small Business of the Year
The Sacramento Observer

Centennial Business Hall of Fame
United Way California Capital Region

MetroEDGE Young Professional of the Year
Dr. Nkiruka Catherine Ohaegbu
Capitol Impact

One of the leading African American newspapers in America started over discussions at a kitchen table. In 1962, the country was in the middle of a Civil Rights Revolution. William Lee, his wife Kathryn, radio man Geno Gladden, and businessman John W. Cole saw the need for the then tiny African American community in Sacramento to have a lighthouse that would illuminate its triumphs and losses.

Although none had newspaper experience, they decided to launch a weekly newspaper to tell stories often overlooked in the mainstream press. Issues from civil rights and discrimination in housing and jobs to health care and education. It would also serve an advocacy role, pushing back against racist media narratives and a need to not just report on the issues, but to be a part of the discussion that helped change the conditions for the Black community.

They launched their first publication of The Sacramento Observer on November 22, 1962. Since then, it has been at the forefront of telling stories for the region’s African-American community. Lee became the publisher, and Kathryn joined as assistant publisher a few years later after Gladden died and Cole sold them his interest. The entire family pitched in from advertising, to design, layout, distribution and editorial.

With great enthusiasm, and through years of struggle, the Lees pursued a publication that they hoped would educate and inspire African Americans in Sacramento about the momentous events led by African Americans in other communities. They recruited talented, aspiring journalists from the community to write for the paper and financed the operation with their own incomes – his as a real estate broker and hers working at Gov. Pat Brown’s office in the Capitol. Lee never lost sight of the importance of this work and what it meant for his generation and beyond. Under his guidance The Observer created and fostered a sense of place, a sense of pride and a sense of community, The Lee Publishing Company grew over the next 20 years, eventually publishing in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Stockton, Solano County and Reno. As tribute to the quality of its work, The Sacramento Observer has won more than 700 awards for community service and journalism excellence, including the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s Russwurm Trophy for the country’s best African American newspaper seven times (most recently in 2023).

Eventually, the Lees turned over management of the paper to their son, Larry Lee. William Lee died in September of 2019 (Kathryn in March 2013), but Larry Lee has established his own vision for the organization — reimagining what a media outlet can be in the 21st century. He has embraced technology that allows The Sacramento Observer to continue to be innovative, fresh and exciting while still covering issues that are extremely critical to the Black community.