Great Falls media figure Sheila Stewart loses life in Atlanta car accident

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By Nancy Parsons

 Nancy Parsons

Landmark News Services

GREAT FALLS –  “Our loss is heaven’s gain,” Helen Worthy said of the passing of her younger sister, Sheila Stewart.

Stewart, 44, the news and community affairs director at Radio One’s five stations in Washington, D.C. was fatally injured in an automobile accident on Oct. 24, in Atlanta, Ga. She is survived by a 3-year-old son, Jonathan Russell. 

Worthy said her sister moved to Atlanta about a month ago to begin a new job with Radio One.

“She was on her way to work,” Worthy said.

The youngest child and one of eight children born to Dorothy Stewart and the late Henry Stewart, Sheila Stewart attended Great Falls High School where she served as drum major. She was also active in the school, the Great Falls community and her church.

In 1986, Stewart entered the Miss Black Chester Pageant.

“Sheila’s reason for entering the pageant was to earn a scholarship to assist with her college tuition,” said Linda Thompson, the pageant’s founder and director.

“I remember Sheila as being very versatile,” Thompson said. “She sang while playing the piano. She just stood out. You could tell there was something special about Sheila. She was very outgoing, assessable to others, working to improve herself at all times.”

Stewart went on to the state pageant in Columbia and was named third runner-up.

“Sheila always represented the title with pride and dignity – raising the bar for others to follow. Sheila is one of those people you'll never forget. She was like a daughter to me,” Thompson said.

Earning a communications degree from Benedict College, Stewart moved to Charlotte where she worked for WPEG-Power 98 and as a news and traffic reporter with WBTV. She also worked as an adjunct professor at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte.

Stewart advanced to news and public affairs director for WPEG-FM before moving to a career as community affairs director for Radio One’s Washington D.C., stations in 2004.

“While in Charlotte, she took the city by storm,” Thompson said. “When you turned on the radio, you would hear Sheila. When you turned on the television, you would see Sheila. Better still, while attending parades, you would hear the crowd chanting her name up and down the street. A mega star, Sheila, was indeed loved by many.”

Thompson said Stewart was a talented woman whose contributions will long be felt by communities throughout the nation.

“She was a beacon of success,” Thompson said. “She was a wonderful young lady and you could tell she was destined to do much and she did.”

Cathy Hughes, founder and chairwoman of Radio One, Inc., said Stewart’s death was a sad moment for the company.

“I am so saddened by the untimely passing of Sheila Stewart, a trusted friend and employee,” Hughes said. “Sheila had a passion for our community and she let it shine through her work each and every day. Her magnetic personality will be remembered by us and all of her friends in the Washington, D.C. community.”

Stewart was an awardwinning media figure whose career as a radio, TV and print media personality spanned over 20 years.

Radio One said Stewart’s honors included the Crystal Award for Outstanding Community Service from the National Association of Broadcasters, a National Community Service Award from the Federal Bureau of Investigation for raising $40,000 in one day for a missing nine-year-old girl, The Keeper of the Community Service Award with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and The News Director of the Year Award at The Washington Post.

“While we are mourning the loss of our friend and co-worker, others are rejoicing to meet her behind the veil,” Radio One posted on its website.

While in Charlotte, Stewart started a small private foundation that awarded scholarships to minority college students. She spent a lot of time working with youth and organizations. She mentored more than 40 at-risk girls and helped raised more than $1 million for charities such as The Susan Komen Race for the Cure, The United Negro College Fund, National Congress of Black Women, the 100 Black Men of America, The National Urban League, the NAACP, The Jack and Jill Foundation and a host of others.

In 2008, Stewart sponsored a youth gospel choir competition in Maryland.

“She had a heart for youth,” Worthy said.

Stewart was an accomplished writer and author. She wrote and published her first book, “Faith and The 3P’s Overcoming Obstacles With Prayer, Persistence and Positive Thinking.”

She was featured on the front cover of “Pride Magazine,” a Charlotte-based magazine for blacks in 2004.

One of Stewart's most notable moments was having lunch with President Barack and Michelle Obama.

“She was like a celebrity,” Worthy said. “Everyone knew her. Sheila helped so many people start their way in broadcasting. You name it, she's done it.”

Worthy described her younger sister as a leader.

“She wanted everyone to excel. She touched so many lives,” Worthy said.