Award-winning Norfolk journalist Marvin 'M.L.' Lake remembered

Free Press staff report | 4/4/2024, 6 p.m.
As a career journalist, Marvin Leon Lake’s interests dated back to junior high school when he was a business manager ...
Mr. Lake

As a career journalist, Marvin Leon Lake’s interests dated back to junior high school when he was a business manager for the Jacox Journal in 1959. He also was editor of The Clarion, Booker T. Washington’s student newspaper. For a brief period, Mr. Lake wrote a weekly column for The Journal and Guide.

His early love and thirst for journalism eventually guided him to The Virginian-Pilot where, in 2007, he retired as the first African-American reporter, editor and public editor of the Norfolk-based newspaper, closing a 41-year career. During his tenure, Mr. Lake was simultaneously The Pilot’s newsroom recruitment director and the Sunday Commentary editor for nine years. He also directed Landmark Communications’ year-long Minority Training Program, The Pilot’s summer internship program and its Minority Journalism Workshop for high school students.

Affectionately known as “M.L.” among his legions of news media colleagues, family, friends and students, Mr. Lake died peacefully March 27, 2024, at home with his wife of 41 years, Ruby A. Farrar-Lake, the love of his life, best friend, and faithful caregiver. Born in 1944 in Norfolk, Virginia, he was predeceased by his mother Audrey Marie Lake White, stepfather Charles White and brother Maurice A. Lake.

After graduating college, Mr. Lake was drafted in 1967 and spent two years in the United States Army working in the public information office producing the base newspaper at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii. As a reporter, Mr. Lake variously covered federal courts, education, Norfolk City government, politics and special projects. In 2005, his editorial, “Overdue Restitution,” about a state scholarship program for individuals adversely impacted by Massive Resistance, won an Excel Award from the Hampton Roads Black Media Professionals. A founding member and former president of HRBMP,

Mr. Lake wrote a career-advice column, “Career-Wise”, for the National Association of Black Journalists journal.

For several years, Mr. Lake programmed and produced a weekly radio jazz show, “Anything Goes’” on WOWI (later 103-JAMZ). In 1997, he conceived and edited the award-winning three-day Pilot series, “Church Street: What Was Lost,” about the one-time hub of Black life in Hampton Roads. He also conceived, hosted and narrated the local PBS documentary “Church Street: Harlem of the South”, a joint effort of The Pilot and WHRO-TV that won local, state and national awards.

A graduate of Norfolk State University with a degree in sociology and minor in psychology, Mr. Lake was campus newspaper the NSU Department of Mass Communications and Journalism’s Excellence in Communications Award and the NSU Distinguished Alumni in Media Award. Mr. Lake also taught as an adjunct professor at NSU and Hampton University.

Mr. Lake was director of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government and a long-time co-chair of the Virginia Press Association’s Diversity Committee, conducting diversity training sessions. In June 2001, he received the George Mason Award from the Virginia Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for significant contributions to journalism in Virginia. In 2007, he was

inducted into the Virginia Communications

Hall of Fame. In 2008, the National Association of Minority Media Executives presented him with its top honor, the Robert G. Maynard Legend Award. Active in the community, Mr. Lake was project director for

the City of Norfolk’s 50th Anniversary of the End of Massive Resistance Commemoration. He also helped develop a book about African-American history in Norfolk.

Mr. Lake was the president of the Crispus Attucks Cultural Center Inc. and the vice president for planning and operations of the Hampton Roads Committee of 200+ Men Inc. He was a longtime chair of the organization’s annual 200+ Scholars Breakfast honoring area’s African-American male high school graduates with a 3.0 or better grade point average.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Lake is survived by his brother and his constant talking “buddy” Warren Lake (Shirley); niece Dawn Lake; nephew Maurice A. Lake, Jr; “little brother” Christopher Williams (Anne); adopted son Leslie Brown (Luciana). A celebration of Mr. Lake’s life took place on Tuesday, April 2, at Shiloh Baptist Church, 745 Park Ave.