NORTH MIAMI – A veritable who’s who of South Florida journalists filled a ballroom at Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay campus to say goodbye to a legend.
Michael Anthony McQueen, 52, a former Miami Herald assistant city editor, FIU journalism instructor and department chair, died in New Orleans on Oct. 25, due to complications from cancer and congestive heart failure.
A funeral service took place in New Orleans, but a special memorial for those who remember McQueen in South Florida took place on Nov. 7, drawing about 100 people to FIU not only to mourn his passing but also to celebrate his life.
South Florida Times Executive Editor Bradley Bennett, for whom McQueen was a mentor, served as master of ceremony.
“To me, he was like an uncle, a member of the family who knew my profession inside and out. He was that one person I would always call whenever I needed to make an important decision in my career,” Bennett said of McQueen, who encouraged him to take the leap of faith that resulted in his current position.
Bea Hines, whose religion column runs weekly in The Miami Herald, led the audience in songs of praise. Hines’ distinction of having been the first black female reporter at The Herald was noted during the service – a distinction that fit nicely among the honors generated by the man she referred to as a “fine young man.”
South Florida Times Publisher Robert Beatty recited the poem “A Child of Mine,” slightly customized to include McQueen’s name.
The Miami Herald’s retired editorial page editor, Joe Oglesby, essentially reminded the audience that as painful as McQueen’s passing feels, in the grand scheme of things, it has its place. Oglesby read verses from the Bible book of Ecclesiastes, chapter three, which speaks of everything – including birth and death – having a season.
When he died, McQueen was the Chief of Bureau for The Associated Press in Louisiana and Mississippi. Navigating between careers in the newsroom and the classroom, McQueen had also served as Department Chair of FIU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication and an adjunct professor at the University of Miami.
“Mike just loved teaching and the students loved him. He brought the newsroom into the classroom,” said Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver, dean and professor of FIU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
McQueen’s 30-year career also included the managing editor post at The Macon Telegraph. He was also, at various times, a reporter for USA Today, The Miami Herald, The Tallahassee Democrat and the Florida Times-Union.
A consummate family man, McQueen and his wife of 28 years, Glenda, were the parents of two boys. In 2006, the couple suffered the loss of their eldest son,
Michael A. McQueen II, who was murdered at the hands of a fellow U. S. Army Ranger, now serving 35 years for the crime.
Mike McQueen’s other son, Otto, spoke at the South Florida memorial, which was also attended by McQueen’s wife, Glenda; his sister, Nichole McQueen Brewton; his uncle, Kenneth Manuel; and his aunt, Joyce Holmes. Holmes lovingly gloated that she was the only person allowed the honor of calling her nephew “Mikey.”
“On behalf of the family, I want to give a thank you to everyone who came here today to give this celebration for my dad,” Otto McQueen said.
Otto teased Pastor Michael Anthony Mitchell, his father’s close friend, about his lengthy eulogy, accusing the humorous speaker of being “on preacher time.”
In his eulogy, Mitchell spoke lovingly and comically about his long-time friend, who served as best man at his wedding, and vice versa. He shared memories of their childhood in Coconut Grove and eclectic life experiences that included their mutual love of comedian George Carlin, jaunts to hippie bong shops and an ability to find each other when it mattered most.
“We had a balanced lifestyle,” he said of his friendship with McQueen, whom he called a Renaissance Man.
“He could actually function in the white world, and the black world and the literate world and the ignorant world,” Mitchell said of his friend.
In a tribute that sought to mirror the newsman’s richly diverse life, Julie Kay, president of the Society of Professional Journalists’ South Florida chapter, announced that the organization has established a scholarship in Mike McQueen’s name.
Jazz singer Joan Cartwright, also a close friend of the McQueen family, sang “Jazz Ain’t Nothing but Soul.”
Members of the South Florida Black Journalists Association recited poetry, and the FIU Golden Dazzlers danced in honor of Michael Anthony McQueen.