In the Community

The Norm Brewer First Amendment Lecture

One of the crowning achievements of Sanford’s career is the founding of the annual Norm Brewer First Amendment Lecture at the University of Memphis. This event features nationally noted speakers such as presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, Pulitzer- Prize winning columnist Leonard Pitts, veteran journalist Geneva Overholser and radio talk show host Callie Crossley. This event is attended by students, civic and business leaders, activists, scholars, elected officials and other engaged people from a cross-section of the community.

The Memphis Rotary Club

The Memphis Rotary Club is engaged in a number of community service projects such as hunger relief, promoting clean water, and furthering the education of Memphis youth. As a veteran member and former treasurer of Rotary, Sanford engages with business leaders and executives to promote projects that improve the city.

The Mid-South Food Bank

The Mid-South Food Bank serves 31 counties in the Mid-South. Having served on its Board of Directors for several years, Sanford is keenly aware of the issues of poverty and food shortage that exist in many communities.

Teen Appeal

Sanford founded the Teen Appeal, a city-wide high school newspaper to introduce students to the field of journalism. More than one-thousand students participated in the Teen Appeal project. Dozens have received college scholarships and many have become professional journalists and writers.

HER Faith Ministries

Extending his interest in addressing poverty and deprivation, Sanford serves on the Board of Directors of HER Faith Ministries which provides support to homeless and needy women and children in Memphis. In support of this mission, he founded the annual Otis Sanford Bowl-a-thon.


One of his lifelong concerns has been the education of youth. Over the years, Sanford has mentored scores of students at every age from elementary to college-level. He is continuing his commitment to youth in this role as professor at the U of M.


Sanford is sought as a speaker and presenter by universities across the country including Indiana University, Vanderbilt, Florida A & M, Hampton University, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and others; to community organizations, journalism associations, churches and other venues. He has also spoken at a host of high school and elementary schools.


Over his more than 40-year career, Sanford has been a tireless advocate for freedom of the press, journalistic excellence and media literacy. He is a past president of the Associated Press Media Editors and past board chairman of the Mid-America Press Institute. He is a longtime member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), and currently serves as the faculty advisor for the student chapter at the University of Memphis. Sanford has worked for four newspapers that serve major cities in the Mid-South, Eastern United States, and the Midwest. Because of his broad and diverse background, Sanford is widely considered to be one of the most influential journalists in his field.