Amherst Magazine

Theodore L. Cross '46

Theodore Cross (1924-2010)
Publisher, Civil Rights Activist, and Bird Photographer

 

ted crossTheodore Lamont Cross, an author, publisher, photographer, and civil rights activist, died Sunday at a hospital in Fort Myers, Florida. He was 86 years old.

Mr. Cross, a native of Wellesley, Massachusetts, whose home was in Princeton, New Jersey, was a 1946 graduate of Amherst College. After serving as a naval officer in the South Pacific in the closing days of World War II, Cross enrolled in Harvard Law School where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.

After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1950, Cross pursued a number of careers, all with great energy and success. First he was appointed General Counsel of the Sheraton Hotel chain. In this position he negotiated a settlement of one of the early civil rights protests at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. After joining Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1965 voting rights march in Selma, Alabama, Mr. Cross took a leave from Sheraton and became a minority economic development and community action consultant in Washington.

For many years, Mr. Cross was a leading spokesman for black economic development. His book, Black Capitalism — the "catalytic work on minority capitalism," according to Black Enterprise magazine, inspired a number of new federal programs aimed at strengthening black business and employment. His second book, The Black Power Imperative, argued that the grossly unequal distribution of political power and investment capital among blacks and whites have been prime causes of other forms of black inequality. These themes underlay the corrective strategies in the Opportunity Funding Corporation which he designed and organized under White House sponsorship and funding in 1970.

In the early 1970s, Mr. Cross turned his attention to publishing. With his two brothers, Warren and Gorham, he founded and built over a period of 20 years the firm of Warren, Gorham & Lamont, which became one of the nation’s largest publishers of professional books and services.

In later years, Mr. Cross had been extraordinarily successful in rehabilitating failing publishing companies. In 1983 he scored a stunning success in the publishing world when he bought Wall Street’s nearly defunct Investment Dealer’s Digest. Two-and-a-half years later, after editorially reviving the Digest and creating a securities database from its archives, he sold the company for many times its purchase price.

In 1987, Cross amassed a significant percentage of the shares of independent publisher Harper & Row. After Cross launched a takeover attempt, several other bidders entered the fray. Eventually, control of the company was won by Rupert Murdoch at a share price that provided a substantial premium over the price Cross had paid for his stake in the company.

Throughout his life Mr. Cross was intensely interested in the impact of American capitalism on weaker social groups. In 1971 he founded Business and Society Review, a leading national journal on corporate ethics and responsibility. For a number of years the profits from this publication were used to finance lawsuits designed to racially integrate television stations in the South.

Mr. Cross was a trustee of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, the Legal Defense and Educational Fund of the NAACP, the Princeton University Press, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the National Humanities Center. He served as Public Governor of the American Stock Exchange during the years 1972-1977. For many years, Mr. Cross served as a trustee of Amherst College and also as chairman of its Investment Committee. At his death, he was a life trustee of Amherst College. He was a trustee of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, a former treasurer and current member of the American Philosophical Society, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. In addition, he was a member of the advisory council of the Center for African-American Studies at Princeton University.

Mr. Cross was a distinguished bird photographer. In 1989, at the invitation of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, he became the first Westerner to visit the Kolyma River Delta of the eastern Siberian Arctic where he photographed the Ross’s Gull, a rare Arctic seabird. His photographs appear in his books Birds of the Sea, Shore and Tundra and Waterbirds. The esteemed Harvard University biologist Edward O. Wilson said of Waterbirds, “It's a masterpiece. I do not exaggerate when I say that the back-jacket photo of Great Blue Herons is a candidate for the most beautiful illustration of birds in existence, photo or painting." Cross was the founder of Birders United, an organization that served as a watchdog group holding legislators and government officials accountable for their actions that impact birds and their habitats.

Mr. Cross was best known in recent years as founder and editor of The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education in which he published comparative statistics on the success of American colleges and universities in bringing black faculty and students to their campuses. Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, said of the journal, “All black academics read this publication; it is our journal of record.” Up until the time of his death, Cross remained active in writing and editing the quarterly journal and its weekly online edition.

Mr. Cross is survived by his wife Mary Cross, an author and photojournalist, his daughters Amanda Cross of Sanibel, Florida, Lisa Pownall-Gray of Weston, Connecticut, and three stepdaughters, Stuart Warner of Woodbridge, Connecticut, Ann Anderson of Narragansett, Rhode Island, and Polly Warner of Denver, Colorado. He is also survived by three grandchildren and eight stepgrandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled for April 9 at 2pm at Princeton University Chapel, Princeton, NJ.

 

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