And now finally, we have some sad news in the public radio family. Sheryl Flowers, the director of communications for the Tavis Smiley Group and the executive producer of Tavis Smiley's radio program died yesterday after a two-year battle with cancer. She was 42 years old.

Our senior producer, Teshima Walker, worked with Sheryl on "The Tavis Smiley Show" when it was produced by NPR West in California, and she offers this tribute.

TESHIMA WALKER: I met Sheryl Flowers on a sunny spring day in Los Angeles. She interviewed me at a restaurant called Pann's on LaTijera Boulevard. She was tall with an athletic build. She was the color of cinnamon and her short afro was splendid. Sheryl was reserved. She asked pointed questions and she listened to my responses very carefully. Her voice was calm and matter-of-fact when she asked why I wanted to be a part of her team. You have to be on time every day. The hours are brutal. The shift begins at 3:30 a.m., she emphasized. This show is a big undertaking, she repeated a few times, and explained that the folks she hired had to have what the job description called for and some tenacity. Are you that person? She stared unblinking, waiting for my response.

Oh my, I thought, she's something else. And from 2002 to 2004 I had an opportunity to figure out what that something was. Sheryl got to work early. She stayed late. She wrote and edited scripts, and she rarely took a vacation. Her title indicated that she was a manager, but Sheryl was comfortable performing any duty.

If I'm honest, I must admit that the staff, we weren't always kind to her. We didn't understand some of the tough decisions she had to make. The management and host made demands and there stood Sheryl, balancing her way through the middle. She always seemed so steady, unflappable. I admired those qualities. And as Sheryl battled cancer, I changed jobs twice and I always contacted her before I made a move. She always provided wise counsel, and she was a good mentor and a dear friend.

I thought I had more time to talk with Sheryl, but I don't. I am going to miss her terribly. I can only hope that what I've learned from her over the years will help me guide another young woman or man through their journalism career. Thank you, Sheryl.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: Teshima Walker is the senior supervising producer for TELL ME MORE. To read more about Sheryl Flowers' career in journalism and to read some additional tributes, please go to our blog at and click on the TELL ME MORE page.

And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from