By Tribune Staff
Getahn Ward was much more than a star business reporter for the Tennessean for nearly two decades. He was also a mentor to countless students, an inspiration to fellow immigrants, and a friend to many in the journalism community, particularly journalists of color. The man called by Mayor Megan Barry “the hardest working reporter in Nashville,” sadly passed away last weekend at his home following a brief illness at 45.
Ward began his career in the mid-’90s working at the Nashville Banner. He quickly became known for both getting numerous scoops and offering extremely comprehensive and detailed stories on the real estate business on a daily basis. When the Banner folded, he was among a handful of their reporters immediately added to the Tennessean roster. Since joining them in 1998, Ward had become such a name that his picture was among those on the outside of the Tennessean building used to promote their paper.
In an era when local news increasingly was being trimmed and cut, Getahan Ward’s stories became the centerpiece of the Tennessean business coverage on real estate, building expansion, zoning and other related issues. He chronicled numerous stories about acquisitions, new businesses either relocating to or considering Nashville, the changes in communities being driven by gentrification and the ongoing rush of development projects that were planned as Nashville’s national reputation as the “It” city emerged.
Ward was unafraid to ruffle feathers, nor did he sit on information that developers or PR sources would have preferred remain undisclosed. He also always made certain that his information was accurate, and neither exaggerated nor undervalued any details regarding everything from the number of units in a planned condominium unit to the projected costs of businesses possibly coming, employee numbers as far as workforce, and possible economic impact, both short and long term.
But while his work was central in his life, it was far from his only focus. As a deacon at Born Again Church on West Trinity Lane, those who were fortunate enough to be one of his friends on social media could see frequent videos of church services and events. He was such a familiar member of that church it was easy to forget that Ward wasn’t born in America, but grew up in Liberia during an era when that nation was ravaged by war. He emigrated to America in 1991, and subsequently became an America citizen. Though he didn’t cast his first vote in a Presidential election until 2014 when he was 42, Ward took citizenship, electoral politics and responsibilities in his newfound country extremely seriously.
At the same time, he was devoted to his native land, and friends were familiar with his stories about growing up and seeing the horrors of war. He regularly sent money back home to family members, and at the time of his death, his mother Amelia Ward was visiting him here in Nashville. Besides his church connections, Ward also taught journalism at Tennessee State University.. He also was a superb storyteller, as anyone who ever witnessed him discussing business issues, politics, or African history would reaffirm.
At the time of his death, Ward was driving the son of a single mother to school each morning because he had no other way to get there. He did this and numerous other acts of community service without fanfare. He was involved in the Nashville chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and his love for the profession was extensive.
Arrangements were not set at press time. The Tribune will keep the community informed about the details. Getahn Ward will be sorely missed by the entire Music City community, but in particular those who were his friends and those whose lives were enhanced through their encounters and interaction with him.