by Evan Carlton Ward, Sun-Reporter
Gail Cordelia Berkley-Armstrong, legendary awarding-winning Bay Area journalist and Sun-Reporter editor, has died after a lengthy illness. She was 74.
The veteran journalist was committed to the mission of the Black Press of America: “Too long have others spoken for us … we wish to plead our own cause.”
“I truly enjoy my work at the Sun-Reporter, helping to be sure the news and information important to the African American community is available to our readers each week,” she said.
“It is critical that the voices, perspectives and opinions of our community, the leaders and citizens working for change, have an outlet in the Bay Area. It is equally important to highlight the milestones and contributions of those too often left unrecognized in other media.”
Sun-Reporter publisher and friend Amelia Ashley-Ward called Berkley-Armstrong a quiet genius, a loyal and faithful community servant and an exceptional writer.
“Bringing Gail aboard as editor in 2005 was one of the best things I’ve done in my life. She was my rock and trusted sister-friend. She was the best of everything. I am totally lost without her. In grateful appreciation of her remarkable life and service, I will continue the struggle.”
Prior to joining the staff at the Sun-Reporter Publishing Co., Berkley-Armstrong was the longtime executive editor and assistant to the publisher of the Post Newspaper Group in Oakland. The Post Newspaper Group was founded by her late father, Attorney Thomas L. Berkley.
She was also committed to giving her time and talent to community organizations and served as president of the African Sister City Cultural Center, Inc. As president, she led the non-profit organization in its mission to support the City of Oakland’s Sister City relationship with the twin cities Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana.
East Bay Congresswoman Barbara Lee remembered her longtime friend: “My prayers and condolences go to the family and loved ones of Gail Berkley-Armstrong. Gail was an institution in Bay Area journalism. She wrote about and lifted up the Black community for decades, including as the editor of the Oakland Post and most recently at the Sun-Reporter.”
Congresswoman Lee added: “I spoke with her earlier this year on the centennial of the Tulsa massacre, and, as always, her questions reflected her deep insight and her compassion for the subjects she covered. One of her many accomplishments was the sister city agreement between Oakland and Sekondi-Takoradi in Ghana, which helped to provide fresh water and sanitation to children there. My heart is with everyone who is mourning this loss. May she rest in peace and power.”
The editor was also secretary of the board of directors of her church, Lakeside Temple of Practical Christianity, in Oakland.
Berkley-Armstrong was co-founder of Cacao Branch Children’s Hospital in Oakland. She served on several boards of directors of community-based organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area, including Bay Area Urban League, Inc., Bay Area United Fund, Dimensions Dance Theater, Inc. and Black Adoption Placement and Research Center. She was a founding member of New California Media – now New America Media.
She also was a member of the Patrons of the Arts and Humanities of the Bay Area, The African American Museum and Library Coalition, and the Oakland Museum Cultural and Ethnic Affairs Guild’s Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Committee.
The community servant also served as a public relations and marketing consultant and editor for private clients.
Berkley-Armstrong has received many awards for her community work over the years. She received the Pioneer Award from New America Media and recognition for community service from the California Legislature, City and County of San Francisco, Alameda County, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Allen Temple Baptist Church, East Bay Women’s Political Action Committee, Ebony Museum of California, Today’s Women, Inc., College Bounders Committee and the East Bay Area Club of the National Council of Negro Women.
Former San Francisco Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr. said after hearing of Berkley-Armstrong’s passing: “In the more than five decades of being written about in the press, nobody covered me more actively and objectively. Gail will be greatly missed.”
As a child, she was exposed to the diversity of cultures within the Bay Area and beyond by her mother, the late Etta Jordan Hill, an educator and artist.
“Both of my parents were trailblazers and courageous individuals who did not take ‘no’ for an answer. They were both role models for me. They taught by example how to meet challenges, and my mother made sure that my two sisters and I knew the importance of belief and faith in God,” Berkley-Armstrong stated.
She loved traveling and meeting people of other cultures and nations. She toured Europe, Ghana, South America, Mexico, Jamaica, Cuba and other Caribbean nations. The journalist also visited the Ivory Coast, Malaysia, the Fiji Islands and Morocco.
Gail Cordelia Berkley-Armstrong was born Jan. 5, 1947, in Berkeley, Calif. She attended Berkeley public schools and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, Los Angeles. She passed away peacefully in Oakland on Dec. 26, 2021, surrounded by family.
Berkley-Armstrong is survived by her husband, Ray Armstrong, sisters Theon C. King, Miriam Rhea Berkley, a host of other relatives, her Sun-Reporter family and a grateful community. A memorial service is pending.
Evan Ward, a journalist in the Mayor’s Office of Communications, can be reached at email@example.com.