Elijah GOSIER

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GOSIER, Elijah was born Dec. 15, 1949, the seventh child of Mack and Julia Gosier. A quiet, sensitive, gifted child, Elijah aspired from an early age to be a writer, a dream that would lead him to a distinguished journalism career. Elijah's 30-plus years in journalism began in the military where his unique abilities earned him many awards and recognitions, and assignment to the venerated newspaper Stars and Stripes. As the paper's bureau chief in Stuttgart, Germany, he directed coverage of the country's south-central region. After four years there, the Department of Defense tapped him to manage a campaign promoting the value of military race relations and equal opportunity programs. After editing a newspaper with a circulation of 30,000, Elijah left the military hoping to expand the scope of his work. He found that opportunity at Florida's largest newspaper, the St. Petersburg Times. As a columnist there, he used his platform to speak out boldly against injustice and give voice to those who otherwise would not have been heard. His advocacy contributed to the firing of a police chief deemed to be racist. His columns supporting a woman who was losing her property because of code violations that she couldn't afford to correct, changed the way the city enforced its codes and spared many residents from exorbitant fines and the loss of their property. The department changed from Code Enforcement to Code Assistance, with a team of workers who repaired deficiencies for property owners too poor to pay. His advocacy was not universally appreciated however, and a man was prosecuted for his role in a plot to have him killed. In most circles, though, his work earned praise and recognition. Florida editors consistently voted him among the top three columnists in the state, and he was recognized nationally as one of 10 semifinalists for the Pulitzer Prize for opinion writing. His peers selected him to be the first recipient of the Courageous Journalist Award from the Tampa Bay Society of Professional Journalists. St. Petersburg's prestigious Ambassador Club named him Citizen of the Year. During more than 30 years of writing, he witnessed history and history makers. He attended and covered the Million Man March and the Birmingham trial and conviction of the last klansman found guilty of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, which killed four black girls. Elijah preferred to get to know his subjects face-to-face rather than over the phone. He spent three days with Johnnie Cochran during Cochran's stop in Philadelphia to promote his book, and joined Jesse Jackson for several days on his bus tour to register Florida voters. Although he often interviewed the well-known, such as historian John Hope Franklin and civil rights legend Rev. Joseph Lowery, Elijah enjoyed most being able to give voice to the people who otherwise would not be heard, those people often mistakenly called ordinary. But Elijah's work wasn't limited to the written word. Driven by a creed of "Stand up for justice and fairness, even when you won't benefit directly and may even suffer for your stand," he played pivotal roles in changing Valdosta State's mascot from the Confederate "Rebels" to the neutral "Blazers," and in pushing his employer Times Publishing Company to appoint its first black member to the board of directors and adopt a "Rooney Rule" in hiring, which requires that at least one qualified minority candidate be interviewed for each job opening. Elijah also had a lighter side. He competed against Europe as part of an eight-person U. S. chess team. And several times, he qualified for the national amateur billiards championship in Las Vegas. But he always considered his greatest accomplishment was in raising two sons who grew up to be intelligent men with character and integrity and a sense of duty to the family name. Elijah was preceded in death by two sons, Mack McKinley Gosier and Sabin Lamont Gosier. He is survived by a son, Elijah II, and a daughter, Connie Lee Cotton; Five grandchildren, Elijah III, Trevan Andrew Gosier, Kia Gary, Mardoni LaGuerre, Sunnah Maddox; a brother, Jimmy C. Gosier, two sisters, Alma Brown and Patricia Faison; six nieces, Marilyn Aunura Denson, Kemba Olabisi Gosier, Jameelah Brown Ferrell, Kameelah Spence (Maurice), Erica Dennard and Mary Stewart, Courtney Gosier and Erica Gosier; five nephews, Eddie Mack Gosier Jr.(Tammie), Christopher Gosier, Brandon Gosier, Eric Joyce & Warren Joyce, and host of relatives & friends.

Published in the Tampa Bay Times on Apr. 27, 2013
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