reporter and writer, the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News
During a career that spanned five decades, Betty DeRamus took readers by the hand and led them through the dizzying, sometimes scary and often uplifting human landscape of Detroit, a city she loves. She has been one of the best in the business, a journalist with a poet’s flair and a reporter’s persistence.
DeRamus wasn’t born in Detroit, but her soul was. And that soul compelled her to go out and find stories that pulse with the heartbeat of Detroit: award-winning, life-affirming stories about hard-working folks like her parents who brought her here from Alabama in the early 1940s; stories about young, empty-eyed dope dealers and the brave citizens who refused to surrender their neighborhoods and their dreams to them.
She wrote unflinchingly about race, and called both blacks and whites to task for their words and behavior. She wrote about people who ran for their lives through the underground railroad. And, she traveled across the country and across the seas to infuse life into the stories behind the headlines—stories about individuals affected by hunger in Africa or the election of Nelson Mandela or the Los Angeles riots.
Because of the depth of her reporting and the beauty of her writing, DeRamus received dozens of awards. Among them: the Overseas Press Club of America, Eugene C. Pulliam Award, Writer’s Digest, Best of Gannett, Charles Steward Mott Foundation, National Association of Black Journalists, Michigan Press Association, and as a Pulitzer Prize finalist. She was the only American journalist chosen to tour Central African refugee camps after the massacres in Rwanda.
DeRamus graduated from Wayne State University and got her start at the Michigan Chronicle. She was a reporter and then editorial writer at the Detroit Free Press from 1972 to 1987, when the Detroit News hired her as a columnist. She retired from the News in 2006. DeRamus was a founding member of the Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.