By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Dr. Helen Chavis Othow, the beloved author, college professor and sister of National Newspaper Publishers Association President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., died at the age of 89 on January 1, 2022 in Oxford, North Carolina.

A lover of reading, writing, and history, Dr. Othow received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and majored in Black studies and African, African American, and Caribbean literature.

She also studied Elizabethan and Medieval literature, and her dissertation, “The New Decorum: Moral Perspectives of Black Literature,” was published in the Library of Congress.

Dr. Othow presented “Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali by D.T. Niane,” that illustrated her appreciation and knowledge of African culture.

She expressed a desire to impart knowledge to all citizens of the world.

“My sister was also a freedom fighter,” Dr. Chavis remarked.

“The Chavis family has been fighting for freedom, justice, and equality for 250 years in America and in Africa.”

Born April 21, 1932, in Oxford, North Carolina, Dr. Othow was the daughter of Benjamin Franklin Chavis, Sr; a Prince Hall mason and superintendent of African American child-care institutions, and Elisabeth R. Chavis, a writer and public school teacher for 65 years.

A municipal park in Raleigh, North Carolina, bears the name of her ancestor educator, John Chavis (1763-1838).

The beloved scholar, Dr. Othow, also received a bachelor’s degree from St. Augustine’s College, and she earned her master’s at North Carolina Central University.

She eventually became head of the English Department at St. Augustine’s College.

She was also widely acclaimed and respected as a conscientious scholar dedicated to enhancing excellence in the literary and other arts. Dr Othow also taught at the following Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs): Howard University, Johnson C. Smith University, North Carolina Central University, Hampton University, and Jackson State University.

Dr. Othow pushed for the understanding of African American history, including educating her students and others about John Chavis, who fought in the Revolutionary War and became an educator who taught some of North Carolina’s most influential leaders.

Dr. Othow is survived by her daughter, Ajulonyodier Elisabeth Othow, her brother, Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., and her sisters, Dr. La Rhoda Francine Chavis, MD and Carol Faye Paton, and a host of other relatives.

Funeral services for Dr. Othow are scheduled for 1 p.m. EST., Saturday, January 8 at the Chavis Family Cemetery in Oxford, North Carolina.

Condolences can be sent to Wright Funeral Home, Inc. at, or by visiting the funeral home’s website at