Herbert "NIP" Nipson was a wonderful man. He will be remembered as the executive editor of Ebony Magazine. He may have been the most significant African American journalists of the 20th century. He chronicled the Black experience.
He was a member of the Ebony team for fifteen years; beginning in 1949 shortly after the national voice began. In a word, he was a character. Off beat, a beatnik, bohemian in his style. He was brilliant. His desk and his office was a constant mess. He knew where everything was. He worked from one pile to another. He made Ebony zoom. He was a lifestyle editor before the word was coined. He fathered multitasking. He was amazing to watch at work. He knew how to capture the essence. Nipson was a world class journalist. He realized the impact and import of the Civil Rights Movement as he recorded it. He provided the most insightful profiles of Martin Luther King, Jr., as a man on his Ebony pages. He told us about the man and his movement. He gave us special issues on the condition and experience of Black America.
Nipson mentored a host of journalists. He taught you how to write, how to interview and how to take and recognize a great photo. Funny thing about mentoring, you don't necessarily realize it when it is happening. Nipson mentored a couple of generations of writers, authors, photographers, editors who are now on the major scene. I often took my work to him for his red pencil from a press release, ad copy or an article. He corrected, but never to disturb your voice. He heard your point of view. He made your voice stronger and better. When he was done, you got it.
He was knowledgeable and knew everybody you wanted to. He was a great guy to talk to about an idea. He was a great listener. He was always working. He introduced me to a great artist, Paul Collins and we use to visit him on Friday evenings at his office. We talked about everything from world affairs, current events, personalities and of course art. Once Paul suggested that I straightened Nip's office. I got somewhat through it and he said now I can't find anything.
What I remember most about Nippon was his passion for art which he shared with all who would listen. He was the spirit and force behind the South Side Community Art Center. There was an annual art action that was loads of fun. This was Nippon's heart. He loved artists, he promoted the artist and made everyone become a collector whether you had five dollars or $5,000. You started small, and grew your art collection to fill your wall space. The artists donated and patrons purchased. He knew art. He taught it. He introduced the artist, he talked about the art, and he conducted the auction. Because of him I had more art than furniture at one time. He did more for Black art and Black artists than most. He is largely responsible for the famous art collection housed in Johnson Publishing. He is responsible for Chicago's Black community being a sophisticated town in the collecting of Black art.
Nip was a great guy and he taught writers to write and he taught many to have an appreciation and love for art. You were blessed to have known him.