Pioneering Civil rights and Black political 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.
Rumors of his death circulated heavily in journalistic circles on Saturday night until it was confirmed by Dr. Bernard Lafayette, MLK confidant and chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference shortly before midnight.
“This is a tragic loss to the movement because George Curry was a journalist who paid special attention to civil rights because he lived it and loved it,” Lafayette said through his spokesman Maynard Eaton, SCLC national communications director.
Curry’s connection to the SCLC was through his longtime childhood friend, confidant and ally in civil rights, Dr. Charles Steele, SCLC president. Lafayette said Dr. Steele was initially too distraught to make the announcement himself and was also awaiting notification of Curry’s immediate family.
Steele and Curry grew up together in Tuscaloosa, Ala. where Curry bloomed as a civil rights and sports writer as Steele grew into a politician and civil rights leader.
Curry began his journalism career at Sport 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 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 do commentary on the radio show of the Rev. Al Sharpton, “Keepin’ It Real.”
Friends, fellow journalists and many of the people that Curry touched throughout his career took to social media to share their condolences.
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.
Few details of his death were readily available Sunday morning. Reactions and memorial information will be forthcoming. The following is his edited speaker’s biography as posted on the website of America’s Program Bureau:
George E. Curry is former editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service. The former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, Curry also writes a weekly syndicated column for NNPA, a federation of more than 200 African American newspapers.
Curry, who served as editor-in-chief of the NNPA News Service from 2001 until 2007, returned to lead the news service for a second time on April 2, 2012.
His work at the NNPA has 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.
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