Esteemed journalist and columnist dies at 69

George Curry
George Curry

Pioneering Black political and civil rights journalist George E. Curry, the reputed dean of Black press columnists because of his riveting weekly commentary in Black newspapers across the country, died suddenly of heart failure on Saturday, August 20. He was 69.

Curry began his journalism career at Sports Illustrated, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and then the Chicago Tribune. But he is perhaps best known for his editorship of the former Emerge Magazine and more recently for his work as editor-in-chief for the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) from 2000-2007 and again from 2012 until last year.

His name is as prominent among civil rights circles as among journalists. He traveled with the Rev. Jesse Jackson and appeared weekly to provide commentary on “Keepin’ It Real,” the radio show of the Rev. Al Sharpton.

When he died, he was raising money to fully fund Emerge News Online, a digital version of the former paper magazine. He had also continued to distribute his weekly column to Black newspapers.

His work at the NNPA ranged from being inside the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments in the University of Michigan affirmative action cases, to traveling to Doha, Qatar to report on America’s war with Iraq. As editor-in-chief of Emerge, Curry led the magazine to win more than 40 national journalism awards.

He was most proud of his four-year campaign to win the release of Kemba Smith, a 22-year-old woman who was given a mandatory sentence of 24½ years in prison for her minor role in a drug ring. In May 1996, Emerge published a cover story titled “Kemba’s Nightmare.” President Clinton pardoned Smith in December 2000, marking the end of her nightmare.

Curry is the author of Jake Gaither: America’s Most Famous Black Coach and editor of The Affirmative Action Debate and The Best of Emerge Magazine. He was editor of the National Urban League’s “2006 State of Black America” report.

Born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Curry graduated from Druid High School before enrolling at Knoxville College in Tennessee. At Knoxville, he was editor of the school paper. He attended Harvard and Yale on summer history scholarships.

While working as a Washington correspondent for The Chicago Tribune, he wrote and served as chief correspondent for the widely praised television documentary Assault on Affirmative Action, which was aired as part of the PBS Frontline series. He was featured in a segment of One Plus One, a national PBS documentary on mentoring.

In 2003, the National Association of Black Journalists named Curry Journalist of the Year. While serving as editor of Emerge, Curry was elected president of the American Society of Magazine Editors, the first African American to hold the association’s top office.

 

Thanks to Trice Edney Communications for sharing this information with us.