Thursday, June 19, 2003

Obituary: Dave Ashley was boxer, publisher

By Rebecca Goodman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Mr. Ashley

WOODLAWN - Dave Ashley was just one of many young African-American men who returned home from World War II to find his opportunities limited.

Throughout the course of his life, he relentlessly tried his hand at many things.

A former soldier, boxer, police officer, newspaper publisher, heavy-equipment operator and warehouseman, his life was anything but boring.

He once fought heavyweight boxing champion Ezzard Charles and published the Lincoln Heights Times - which touted itself as the "voice of an American-Negro governed community."

Mr. Ashley died June 12 of complications of stroke and pancreatic cancer at Hospice of Cincinnati in Blue Ash. The long-time Woodlawn resident was 78.

He grew up in Hartwell, where his first ambition was to run a newspaper. At age 10, he produced a paper for his neighbors.

He went on to learn the printing trade at Graphic Arts High School and worked as a co-op student for a printing company.

He began boxing at 18 and compiled a record of 40 wins and 16 losses over the next 17 years.

But in 1943 he was drafted and served with the Army engineers in the South Pacific during World War II. Discharged in 1946, he received a Bronze Star.

Unable to find a job in printing, he went to school to learn to operate heavy equipment, according to his daughter, Donna Harris of Bond Hill.

But "there was no opportunity for him to pursue a career in printing or heavy equipment," she said. Access to good-paying jobs was usually denied to even well-trained black men.

After Lincoln Heights was incorporated in January 1947, Mr. Ashley published the weekly Lincoln Heights Times. He was always interested in giving a voice to those with no voice, said his daughter. Mr. Ashley was also the paper's managing editor for the two years it was published.

He drove for the Lockland Bus Co. before joining the Lockland Police Department in 1949. He remained with the force for 10 years.

In 1953, when he was 29, Mr. Ashley decided to study pre-law at Xavier University to enhance his career in law enforcement. He didn't receive a degree.

All the while he continued to box. He was known as the "fighting policeman."

He fought Charles in Cincinnati in 1959, knocking the champ down twice. But Mr. Ashley was knocked out in the seventh round. It was his last fight.

Mr. Ashley finished out his working days in a foundry and finally as a warehouse worker for the Kroger Co., retiring in 1986.

He left behind a cache of friends who admired his candor and outspokenness, his daughter said.

Mr. Ashley was preceded in death by his wife, Pauline Ashley, in 1994.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include a brother, Virgil Ashley of Chicago; a sister, Jeannetta Evans of Forest Park; and a grandson.

Services have been held. Burial was at Beechgrove Cemetery.


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