In life, Wyoma Best was a pioneer. She was the first African American woman to serve on the Rochester City School Board, the first to appear on television as News10NBC reporter, and among the first African American women managers at the Greater Rochester Metro Chamber of Commerce.
In death, she continues to be an inspiration to women and minorities, as well as to all journalists and reporters, for her tenacity, fearlessness, and dedication.
Best died on Friday, August 25, at the age of 74. She is survived by her husband, Robert, her two daughters, Talethea and Nicolle, and two grandchildren. Talethea remembers her mother as a strong and loving parent, who encouraged her daughters to strive for their own definition of greatness.
Best served the Rochester community through a myriad of contributions, and through her work as a journalist even aided in the recovery of a Picasso painting that was stolen from the Memorial Art Gallery. After days of contemplation, Best shared information with the FBI, going against the universally acknowledged “journalist code” to not provide information to law enforcement. Coworker Mike Power recalls assuring her that she had made the right decision.
“You were more than a reporter then. You were an agent of the community to get a community treasure back where it belongs,” Power said.
Best is frequently described as a trailblazer. As the first black female manager at the Greater Rochester Metro Chamber of Commerce, Best served as vice president of communications for the Rochester Business Alliance. Best contributed to politics, television, and business in Rochester for more than 25 years, and continues to support young journalists of color in the Rochester area through the Wyoma Best Scholarship. Established by the Rochester Association of Black Journalists in 2005, the scholarship has since provided support to black high school seniors interested in print or broadcast journalism. The scholarship serves to enrich the Rochester community by encouraging the next generation of journalists. Best has been a key contributor in the Rochester Association of Black Journalists’ mission to improve diversity in media organizations and news stories.
In 1980, shortly after Best’s retirement, Janet Lomax came to Rochester to fill the vacancy as a News10NBC anchor. Best was the first to welcome Lomax to Rochester, dropping by her hotel to take her out to lunch. They have been good friends since.
“Wyoma Best embodied not only the best traits a journalist could have, but the best traits a human being could have,” Lomax said. “She has touched many, many lives through her work as a journalist and later as a vpP of communications at the former Chamber of Commerce. She made many friends along the way. We will miss the compassion and grace she shared with others. Wyoma Best was a trailblazer. She was one-of-a-kind. She will be missed.”
Lynette Adams, another African American News10NBC reporter that succeeded Best, added: “I owe Wyoma a debt of gratitude for blazing a trail for me and others. Without a Wyoma Best, there would be no Lynette Adams. This is a great loss to our community.”
Best was recognized by not only the journalist community, but also as an integral part of Rochester as a whole. William A. Johnson Jr., Rochester’s first black Mayor, proclaimed June 1, 2005, Wyoma Best Day, the same year that her scholarship was founded.
“She came into our living rooms every evening, and in doing so, showed all the young girls in our community what they aspire to,” Mayor Lovely Warren said in a statement after Wyoma Best’s passing. “She may no longer be with us, but her legacy lives on.”