Fred J. Finch, Jr., a prominent civil rights leader, attorney, and newspaper publisher, was born in Dallas, Texas, on May 3, 1921, to Mollie (White) Finch and Fred James Finch, Sr. Finch graduated with honors and a basketball scholarship from Booker T. Washington High School in 1938. His scholarship led him to Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, where he was a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Finch graduated with honors and with a marriage certificate; at Wiley, he met his future wife, Mildred Newton, whom he married on November 14, 1942. In 1943 they had their only child, a daughter named Mollie Marie. That same year, Finch served in the United States Army Air Forces and was stationed at Tuskegee Air Field. While in the Air Forces, he attained the rank of captain.
After the war, Finch entered a promising career as the assistant personnel officer of the Tuskegee Veterans Hospital. Finch, however, was unfulfilled in his current position. In 1951 he and his family left Tuskegee to relocate in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he had been accepted into Harvard Law School. After graduating from Harvard in 1954, Finch and his family returned to Dallas to begin his practice where he positioned himself on the front lines of the legal battle for civil rights. It was Finch’s legal prowess that contributed to the first African Americans attending Arlington State College (now the University of Texas at Arlington) and Texas Woman’s University.
In 1962 Finch worked for the Dallas branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as chairman of the organization’s legal redress committee. He represented Ernest Hooper, Jerry Hanes and Leaston Chase III, who had all been denied admittance to Arlington State College (ASC) on the basis of the color of their skin. Finch, Jr., wrote to the president of ASC at the time, Jack Woolf, informing him that the three applicants had asked the NAACP to secure their admission to the college. Fortunately for Finch and his clients, many legal battles regarding segregation had been won in the United States Supreme Court. The letter from Finch proved sufficient motivation to compel ASC administrators to admit his clients in the fall of 1962. Finch also helped eliminate “Negro Day” at the Texas State Fair, thereby opening all days of the event to African American attendees.
Finch was a crusader for civil rights outside of the courtroom as well. He pursued race equality while serving on the Dallas City Planning Commission and the Speaker’s Advisory Committee of the Texas State Legislature. He also served as a deacon for many years at his church, St. John Missionary Baptist Church. Perhaps his greatest contribution, however, came in 1986 when he founded the Dallas Examiner, a newspaper that served the African-American community. His daughter, Mollie Marie Finch Belt, served as editor of her father’s paper in 2012.
Despite the contributions that Finch made to his community, his life was marred by tragedy. Shortly after founding the Examiner, he and his wife were murdered in their home during a robbery on March 16, 1986. Fred and Mildred Finch were buried at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Dallas, Texas.