Herald's publisher wins MLK Jr. Spirit Award

By Drew Foster, Herald staff writer January 17, 2010 

Upon receiving the news he'd been named 2010 Martin Luther King Jr. Spirit Award winner, Herald Publisher Rufus Friday said he realized how President Obama must have felt when told he won the Nobel Peace Prize.

"Are you sure?" Friday said he told the caller on the other end of the line. "There's so much more to be done."

Friday will receive the 21st installment of the award during a noon bell-ringing ceremony Monday at Columbia Basin College in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

CBC President Rich Cummins said Friday's community involvement and ability to foster discussion through the Herald's editorial board led to his selection.

"I think he has vision, I think he's a courageous man," Cummins said of Friday.

Friday, 48, credited his parents for his success. His mother and father, who each had a middle school-level education and raised him in a 12-person house -- two parents, nine children and a blind uncle -- considered education to be the great equalizer.

"It comes back to what my parents taught me," Friday said, "and that is wherever you go, make a positive difference in someone's life."

Friday, who became the Herald's publisher in 2005, sits on numerous boards, including United Way of Benton and Franklin Counties, the Washington State University Tri-Cities Advisory Council and the Tri-City Development Council executive committee.

He's also co-chairman of a group raising money for the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center.

"I look back at what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream was, and it was all about making positive social change in your community and country," Friday said.

He believes much of King's dream -- social change, equality, respect -- has been realized. Still, he said there's work to be done.

"We can't forget where we came from, but we have to celebrate the accomplishments we've made," he said.

Friday both remembers where he came from -- Gastonia, N.C. -- and relishes his accomplishments, which he said pale in comparison to previous award winners.

Still, he said the recognition is the result of his upbringing and praised his parents' sacrifices, work ethic, optimism and constant support.

Friday said he looks forward to continuing his work in the community and at the newspaper.

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