First Woman to Lead the National Association of Black Journalists, Sidmel Estes, Dies at 60

Sidmel Estes  TWITTER
Sidmel Estes

Sidmel Estes, who became the first female president of the National Association of Black Journalists in 1991 while working as executive producer and co-creator of WAGA-TV’s “Good Day Atlanta,” died Monday night in an Atlanta hospital where she was being treated for a mystery illness, a friend, Ce Cole Dillon, reported Tuesday on the fund-raising page created to help with Estes’ medical expenses. She was 60. 

“Sadly, Sidmel made her transition last night. Services are pending. The family is thankful for all of the well wishes for Sidmel and for the contributions of support. Please pray for Sidmel’s soul and for her sons,” Dillon’s message read. A younger brother, Christopher Estes, also made an announcement on Facebook.

On Sept. 23, when word of Estes’ illness surfaced, she messaged Journal-isms, “I was stunned when my friends rallied to help me. And there are a lot of Sidmels out there. I didn’t ask anyone to do this. I’m still confined to bed as we try to figure out the medical treatment for what’s happening. But it is serious. I’m scared because I have never had this kind of thing happen. Please keep me in your prayers.”

Estes’ illness was complicated by her lack of health insurance.

Dillon’s message said then, “Sidmel is facing a series of whammies. She has lost her health. She lives in a state that didn’t accept the Medicaid expansion under the ACA [Affordable Care Act]. And she earned her living in a [declining] industry that has limited options for senior workers. Declining industry, declining health, and no health care is her triple whammy. Sidmel’s triple whammy means that she needs help with living expenses and medicines.

“She is too young to retire, and without a diagnosis she can’t qualify for other kinds of government aid for now. . . .”

A fund-raising drive had raised $6,415 of its $36,000 goal by Monday night.

Estes lost more than 150 pounds after undergoing gastric bypass surgery. “I reached my peak at 360 pounds…. I had the surgery in 1999,” she said in 2013. “I have kept the weight off and now weigh 190ish.”

After Estes left WAGA-TV, she started BreakThrough Inc., a consulting company, and became a media consultant and trainer in addition to keeping her shingle as an executive producer. As the turmoil in the news industry led to more layoffs and buyouts, she helped others reorient their thinking.

She leaves two sons, Joshua and Sidney. She had been married to B. Garnett Sumpter.

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Source: The Root | RICHARD PRINCE