VANN, ROBERT L. Lawyer and journalist Robert L. Vann was born in North Carolina in 1887. Through the efforts of his tobacco tenant-farming parents and his own willingness to work in the evenings and during the summers, Vann was able to obtain a first-rate education. He attended Waters Normal Institute and Virginia Union University before receiving his LL. B. degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1909. Passing the Pennsylvania bar examination, Vann soon opened a law office in Pittsburgh. Sensing the need for a black-oriented newspaper in the Pittsburgh area, Vann and a number of associates founded the Pittsburgh Courier in 1910.
The Courier was destined to become the largest and most widely read of all black edited and published newspapers during the 1930's. Vann himself became both publisher and editor of the Courier by 1912. Twenty-five years later, the Courier's national circulation of nearly 180,000 dwarfed the circulation figures of competing black newspapers such as the Chicago Defender (50,000) and the Afro-American chain (70,000).
In addition to his publishing activities, Vann devoted much of his time to politics. As a Republican, he served as Assistant City Solicitor for Pittsburgh between 1917-21 and as the national director of Negro publicity during the Republican presidential campaigns of 1920, 1924 and 1928. Later switching his political allegiance to the Democratic party, Vann was appointed to the post of Special Assistant to the Attorney General in 1933 and became one of the members of President Roosevelt's "Black Cabinet." Vann died in 1940. See also: BLACK CABINET.