A passage from “Common Ground,” J. Anthony Lukas’s landmark book on Boston school desegregation, recounts Dexter D. Eure Sr.’s jump from the Globe’s circulation department to the newsroom in 1968, just after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
The Globe “took a hard look at its news staff — then employing just two blacks above the rank of clerk,” Lukas wrote, and editor Thomas Winship tapped Mr. Eure “to write the paper’s first black column, ‘Tell It Like It Is.’ ” Sometimes using a question-and-answer format, Mr. Eure provided blacks in leadership roles a chance to speak at length to readers. Often, though, he used his own powerful voice to add a perspective that had been missing in the paper.
He chastised liberals in Newton for the subtle racism of resisting low-income housing and shined a light on the lack of blacks in the Massachusetts judiciary. He also didn’t shy from biting the hand the fed him. One column criticized major businesses and institutions in Boston for employing few blacks or none at all. Among those falling short, he wrote, were the city’s newspapers and radio and television stations, which had “yet to find or train a black editor, news, or program director.”
The time had arrived, he wrote in October 1970, “to see that the percentage of blacks in management jobs equals the percentage of blacks in the local population,” adding that “anything less than this is tokenism and a fraud.”
Mr. Eure, who spent 25 years at the Globe, retiring in 1988 as director of community relations, died July 2 in Presentation Rehabilitation & Skilled Care Center in Brighton of complications from dementia. He was 91 and had lived in Boston, and previously in Sharon, since the mid-1960s.
“He was an amazing character, almost the conscience of the owners when it came to inclusion and diversity,” said Gregory L. Moore, who formerly was managing editor of the Globe and is now editor of The Denver Post.
Mr. Eure arrived at the Globe in 1963, when the number of blacks on the paper’s payroll might be counted on one hand with fingers to spare. He put his position and power to use when he became a columnist and an executive at a time when the Taylor family owned the Globe and Winship was reinvigorating the newsroom.
“Dexter was the Globe’s primary connection to the black community in Boston,” said Timothy Leland, former assistant to the publisher. “He knew every leader and future leader, it seemed, in that community. And they all knew and loved him. He was their go-to guy when it came to getting a point of view heard inside the paper.”
Leland added that Winship and the Taylors “depended heavily on him for keeping them up to speed on the issues that needed coverage in the paper — and, equally important, the need to reach out and expand the number of people of color on the Globe staff.”
In that last role Mr. Eure’s “point was clear: the Taylors and the Globe were constantly reminded to break off a piece of the pie for people of color,” Moore said. “He was protective of the Globe, make no mistake. But he was always pushing and never satisfied. Every black employee knew Dexter was watching, and watching over them,” Moore added. “If I went too long without checking in with him, I’d be summoned to visit. After doing a pulse check to make sure I was doing OK, he’d remind me not to get too big for my britches and never forget to help other minorities get to the Globe and thrive.”
An only child, Dexter Dillard Eure was born in Suffolk, Va. He never knew his father, Luke, who left the family when Mr. Eure was an infant. His mother, the former Sarah Sharpe, died when he was 12, and he divided the rest of his youth between extended family and friends in Philadelphia and Suffolk.
After finishing high school in Philadelphia, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from what was then West Virginia State College. He worked in store advertising, first for Macy’s in New York City and then at Stop & Shop in Boston, before being drafted during the Korean War. Stationed at Fort Hood in Texas, he used his artistic background to produce maps and training materials.
Returning to Stop & Shop as an artist after being discharged as a staff sergeant, Mr. Eure married Marjorie Ann Lowe in 1952. They had met when he was in Texas, and they settled in Sharon to raise their three sons.
Their marriage ended in divorce.
Leaving Stop & Shop, Mr. Eure went on to work in advertising for Tribune Publishing Co. and a chain of food markets. He also ran his own advertising business and was a commercial artist for different firms before interviewing for a job with the Globe. “I was given the VIP treatment,” he told The Sharon Advocate in 1988. “They were embarrassed because no blacks were working at the Globe.”
As he had elsewhere, Mr. Eure focused on rectifying workplace inequality. “Whatever job he had throughout his long career, there was always an element of fighting for social justice, fighting for civil rights,” said his son Philip of New York City, who added: “He was brash, he was pushy, he was loud.”
In 1986, the Boston branch of the NAACP presented Mr. Eure with the President’s Award. That same year the Massachusetts Black Legislative Caucus honored Mr. Eure for his efforts to energize the black community.
In the early 1970s, Mr. Eure was appointed the Globe’s director of community relations, and he held other top advisory positions at the paper. When he retired in 1988, he retained his seat on the board of The Boston Globe Foundation.
“Dexter says he’s retiring, but we know he’s not,” Elma Lewis, the arts educator who founded the school that bears her name, told The Sharon Advocate . “He’ll be winding us up like windup toys and we’ll be doing what Dexter says.”
In addition to his son Philip and former wife, Marjorie, Mr. Eure leaves two other sons, Dexter Jr. of Sharon and David of Natick; and two grandsons.
A service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday in Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury. Burial will be in Mount Hope Cemetery.
Although Mr. Eure respected the Taylors and Winship for their advocacy, “he held their feet to the fire . . . and worked very hard to improve the black representation at the Globe and at media organizations around the country,” Philip said.
Mr. Eure “called things as he saw them,” Leland recalled. “He had a loud voice — both literally and figuratively. You could hear him coming down the corridor from some distance away. And it was always an experience to meet him. He never held back.”
Working for the Globe “gave him a life and influence he could never have imagined,” Moore said. “But the Globe got a lot in return, especially a profile and respect among leaders in the black community.”