Finding My Niche – Verdelle Lambert

Verdelle Lambert
Verdelle Lambert

I have always had an interest in writing. In elementary school, another student and I teamed up to write a limerick for an in-class assignment but we could not come up with the last line (limericks have five lines to a stanza):

“A country cow came to the city and tried to act quite siditty.

She laughed and she screamed and her milk turned to cream ???????????????????????? It’s the only work I’ve left unfinished. Perhaps one day I’ll find a fitting ending. Or maybe not.

When I was in the 10th Grade at Beach High School, I won an essay contest on “Alcohol and Lawlessness” sponsored by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Around the same time I began reading for the pure joy of reading. It wasn’t until I enrolled at Savannah State College and took Dr. Luetta Milledge’s literature classes that I knew I wanted to be a writer— I wanted to paint pictures with words the way T. S. Eliot and Robert Frost did. Because I did not see how I could earn a living writing poetry, I turned to journalism. I could see myself writing for Ebony or Jet, two national magazines published by the hugely successful, black-owned Johnson Publishing Company out of Chicago. I changed my major from social science to English, took the only journalism course offered at Savannah State at the time, participated in the Southern Regional Press Institute, and wrote for The Tiger’s Roar, all the while writing poems for my own pleasure.

I graduated in 1962, taught English at Beach for two years, and then headed off to Syracuse University. Having grown up under Jim Crow, I had never been in classes with whites before, let alone shared housing with them; but I was prepared by temperament and by teachers like Stella J. Reeves, who not only gave us the tools to succeed but also inspired us. What confirmation it was to have a class research project (“The Negro’s Exposure in Look’s Editorial Content”) published in Journalism Quarterly, in the autumn 1965 issue.

In January 1966 I completed the course work for the master’s degree in magazine journalism and was immediately hired by Jet, where I worked for a year. While there I took a month’s leave to travel throughout India on scholarship with The Experiment in International Living.

Returning to the East Coast, I spent most of my career editing magazines that companies publish for their employees. That position gave me access to all levels of management, facilitated my understanding of the company’s business, put me in touch with interesting employees to interview, and led to my training and mentoring others. Along the way I honed my skills, developed new ones (photography and graphic arts), and received several awards, most notably from the Department of the Army and the International Association of Business Communicators.

Although I have worked for many companies, including JCPenney and the National Association of Social Workers, I enjoyed my work at IBM-Brooklyn most, because I did everything— writing, layout and photography. My personal goal has always been to continue to be creative. Since retiring from the Savannah District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, I published a Christian magazine (The Gift Is Free) and, most recently, a book of poetry (I’ll Take You There), available on And I’m just getting started.

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