‘Mr. Cynic:’ The first Black editor-in-chief of the Vermont Cynic

Editor’s note: This story was updated Feb. 19 at 5:13 p.m. to correct attribution errors on information pulled from McCollum’s son’s obituary instead of McCollum’s own. 

Nicodemus McCollum III became the first Black editor-in-chief of the Vermont Cynic in 1952, according to a June, 26, 1952 Jet magazine article.

McCollum, known as “Mr. Cynic,” studied political science and aspired to enter the world of journalism post-graduation in 1952, according to the article. He eventually became a father of four, among his many other accomplishments, an April 1952 Cynic article stated.

“McCollum was named managing editor of the Cynic in September [1952], when it was considered a dying newspaper, but by spring the energetic World War II vet had made the paper a paying proposition,” the Jet article stated.

Jet is a now discontinued weekly magazine that focused coverage on Black American life and history, according to a Jan. 19, 2021 article from the LA Times.

McCollum served two years on the Cynic staff. His roles included re-write editor, co-managing editor, managing editor and editor-in-chief, according to an April 25, 1952 Cynic article.

McCollum’s first issue as re-write editor came out Sept. 15, 1951, according to the Cynic Archives. His first issue as co-managing editor came out Oct. 18, 1951, and he became managing editor on Dec. 14, 1951. McCollum’s first issue as editor-in-chief ran on April 25, 1952.

McCollum became the editor-in-chief at 34 years old, the Jet article stated.

Bob Beaupre, the city editor of the Burlington Free Press at the time, awarded McCollum the gold Cynic key in 1952 for outstanding contribution and work to the Cynic, an April 25, 1952 Cynic article stated.

While McCollum was a student, he was married and had one daughter, an April 17, 1952 Cynic article stated.

Courtesy of Special Collections at UVM Libraries

McCollum and his wife had four children – Sharon, Mary Elizabeth, John and Nicodemus Jr. – according to a Sept. 30, 1961 article from the Burlington Free Press.

During World War II, McCollum served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army, according to an April 1952 Cynic article.

McCollum worked in active duty with the Vermont National Guard, 131st Engineers. He served three years in the South Pacific during World War II, a 1961 Burlington Free Press article stated.

McCollum descended from Buffalo Soldiers who arrived in Vermont in 1909. The Buffalo Soldiers were one of four groups of all-African American regiments of the U.S. Army created in 1866, according to the United Methodist Church of Winooski database.

“The Vermont Buffalo Soldier Community is like a family, even though many of us aren’t biological relatives. You can’t pull us apart,” said Sharon McCollum in a 2009 UVM alumni article.