‘A Trusted Comrade,’ Black Press Legend George Curry Dies at 69

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Veteran journalist George Curry speaks during Black Press Week in 2014. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)

By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA News Wire Contributor)

The Black Press lost one of its most celebrated warriors when George Curry, veteran journalist and former Editor-In-Chief of the NNPA News Wire, died from an apparent heart attack on Saturday, August 20. Curry was 69.

Curry lived in suburban Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C.

“On behalf of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), we are all saddened and heartbroken by the sudden passing of one of our most admired, respected, and gifted colleagues, George E. Curry,” said NNPA President Dr. Benjamin Chavis. “Black America, and in fact millions of African people all over the world, had come to know George Curry as a fearless scholar and writer who used his pen and wit to aggressively advance the cause of freedom, justice and equality for Black people and for the whole of humanity.”

Chavis continued: “George was our trusted comrade on the frontlines of the Civil Rights Movement and on the front pages of the Black Press of America. We will miss him.”

It’s hard to believe that Curry, who led the NNPA as Editor-In-Chief of its news wire from 2003 to 2007 and then from 2012 to 2015, has died, said Washington Informer Publisher and NNPA Chair Denise Rolark Barnes, who called Curry a giant in the journalism profession.

“As publisher of ‘The Washington Informer,’ I admired George’s leadership as Editor-In-Chief of ‘Emerge,’ the preeminent monthly news magazine targeting issues impacting African-Americans,” Rolark Barnes said. “George’s uncompromising journalistic leadership delivered on Emerge’s promise to deliver edgy, hard-hitting, intellectual, well-written and thoroughly researched content that attracted national attention and left an indelible mark on the lives of many.

“As a member and now chair of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, I was honored to carry George’s weekly column in ‘The Washington Informer’ and to work with him while he served as Editor-In-Chief of the NNPA News Wire. George provided so much of his time, energy, wisdom and incredible journalistic genius to the Black Press,” she said.

“His work will stand as a lasting legacy of journalistic excellence and integrity of which all of us in the Black Press and the journalism industry at-large can feel extremely proud. My prayers and sympathy extend to his family and closest companions. He will be sorely missed.”

Freddie Allen, the managing editor of the NNPA News Wire, called Curry an icon in the Black Press and said that his legacy of mentoring young journalists will bear fruit for many years to come.

Recently, Allen and Curry were part of a Black media delegation that worked with the Black AIDS Institute to cover the 2016 International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa.

“George taught me what it meant to be a professional journalist and also about the importance of working in the Black Press,” Allen said. “His writing and insight on critical issues affecting the Black community will be sorely missed. I’m thankful for the time we spent together in Durban.”

Curry was a consummate journalist with integrity as his mantra, said Dorothy R. Leavell, publisher of the Crusader newspapers in Chicago and Gary, Indiana.

“We shall miss this voice of reason and thought-provoking columns full of researched facts. It was just the week of August 13th that George wrote a column titled ‘Even Funerals Are Not Family Reunions Anymore.’ He used his family as an example of the loss of closeness that he had enjoyed during his childhood and early adult life and bemoaned the fact that at his cousin Charlene’s funeral the week before that closeness was no longer there,” Leavell said.

“What was ironic is that he pledged that he would try to get his family back together by saying, ‘Neither Big Mama nor Aunt Julia Mae would be pleased that our once close-knit family is in shambles, but as long as I have breath in me, I am going to try to get my family back together. I know it’s a very long shot, but I owe that to Big Mama and Aunt Julia Mae to keep trying.’

“I’m sure George meant to keep that pledge and perhaps the closeness of his family will become a reality, but at a large cost,” said Leavell, adding that she hoped his family will reunite at his funeral. “We miss you already, George.”

The news of Curry’s death not only reverberated throughout Black media, the loss was also felt in the halls of government.

“The Congressional Black Caucus joins with members of the press from around the country to mourn the loss of George E. Curry, a pioneer in Civil Rights and journalism,” CBC Chairman G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), said in a statement. “Curry was a giant in journalism and he stood on the frontlines of the Civil Rights era and used his voice to tell our stories when others would not. The CBC offers our sympathies and condolences to his friends and family, his readers from around the country, and to the countless number of individuals he mentored in the art of reporting and journalistic writing until his untimely death.”

Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton even took a moment from her busy campaign to express her thoughts about Curry, whom she called a friend.

“I am saddened by the loss of an outstanding journalist and supportive friend. George E. Curry was a pioneering journalist, a tireless crusader for justice, and a true agent of change,” Clinton said in a statement. “With quality reporting, creativity, and skillful persuasion he influenced countless people, including me, to think beyond their narrow experience and expand their understanding. George may be gone, but he will not be forgotten.”

The Rev. Al Sharpton called Curry a “trailblazer” and said he was “saddened beyond words” at news of Curry’s death.

In 2003, Curry was named “Journalist of the Year” by the National Association of Black Journalists and he’s also on NABJ’s list of the Most Influential Black Journalists of the 20th Century.

“We pledge to keep the journalistic genius and spirit of George Curry alive in all that we will do in the future to sustain the liberating and empowering voice of Black owned newspapers and media companies,” Chavis said. “George and I were life-long friends and co-workers at the NNPA, NAACP, SCLC, ANC and just about every other national and international organization that is serious about demanding justice and equality.”

Chavis continued: “The legacy of freedom-fighter journalists like George Curry will never pass away, but will always be kept dear and present in our continued struggles to liberate all from injustice.”

Friends, fellow journalists and many of the people that Curry touched throughout his career took to social media to share their condolences.

CBC Chairman G. K. Butterfield’s Statement on the Legacy of George E. Curry

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G. K. Butterfield (NC-01) released the following statement upon hearing news of the passing of esteemed journalist, George E. Curry:

“The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) joins with members of the press from around the country to mourn the loss of George E. Curry, a pioneer in Civil Rights and journalism.

“A native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Curry was an esteemed journalist with a career that spanned decades.  He was highly regarded as the Dean of Black journalists for his unique perspective and engagement during the height of the Civil Rights era, and his weekly commentaries continued to enjoy wide circulation until his untimely death.

“Curry started his career in journalism at Sports Illustrated and later wrote for the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the Chicago Tribune.  He would later serve in a series of lead editor roles including his tenure with Emerge Magazine and more recently as the Editor-in-Chief with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and as the editor and publisher of EmergeNewsOnline.com, which highlighted African American news from around the country.

“George E. Curry was a giant in journalism and he stood on the front lines of the Civil Rights era and used his voice to tell our stories when others would not.  The CBC offers our sympathies and condolences to his friends and family, his readers from around the country, and to the countless number of individuals he mentored in the art of reporting and journalistic writing until his untimely death.”

Hillary Clinton Statement on the Passing of George E. Curry

Today, following news of the death of George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of the National Newspapers Publishing Association, publisher of Emerge magazine, and a pioneering African-American journalist, Hillary Clinton released the following statement:

“I am saddened by the loss of an outstanding journalist and supportive friend. George E. Curry was a pioneering journalist, a tireless crusader for justice, and a true agent of change. With quality reporting, creativity, and skillful persuasion he influenced countless people, including me, to think beyond their narrow experience and expand their understanding. George may be gone, but he will not be forgotten. My thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones.”

Statement by Rev. Jesse L. Jackson on the Passing of Veteran Journalist George Curry

BATON ROUGE, La., Aug. 21, 2016 – George Curry was a talented, tough, tenacious reporter and editor. Journalism has lost a giant. I have lost a dear friend.

George, however, never let friendship or anything else temper or soften his approach to a story. He called it like he saw it every single time. Whether it was international affairs, war and peace, civil rights, gender equality, presidential politics, he had a wide range and a good, objective and scientific mind.

He cared deeply about fair employment, fair access to education and everything else the American Dream has to offer. Born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1947, George experienced firsthand the evils of segregation and racism. He never let it stop him.

I first met George about 35 years ago when he was a reporter for the St. Louis Post Dispatch. It was in St. Louis where he co-founded a program to mentor and train young minority journalists, the next generation of freedom fighters with keyboards and the truth. George loved to give back.

George covered my first presidential campaign in 1984 for the Chicago Tribune. Along with Ken Walker, Sylvester Monroe and a few others, George was part of the first wave of African American journalists to finally be allowed to cover a presidential campaign for the so-called mainstream press. George and the others were eminently qualified but had never been afforded the opportunity until then.

The campaign was drawing big and enthusiastic crowds. George reported what he saw. His dispatches did not sit well with some of his white colleagues. They challenged his objectivity and integrity. It almost came to blows. But George did not back down. He stood tall. He helped pave the way for other journalists of color to do their jobs without the questions and doubts.

George and I traveled the world together for decades – Europe, Asian, the Middle East, Africa, including Nelson Mandela’s funeral. George could do it all. His stint as editor of Emerge magazine is legendary. He was a proud and tireless advocate of the black press, serving two tours as editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s news service.

I talked with George’s family this morning to express my shock and sorrow at his passing at age 69. But I also expressed my joy and great fortune at knowing him as an outstanding journalist and a friend.

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

Founder and President

Rainbow PUSH Coalition

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1 COMMENT

  1. One of George Curry’s most important legacies is his role in co-founding the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists (GSLABJ) and launching its journalism workshop for minority high school students interested in journalism careers, which is approaching its 40th year of service to young people and the journalism profession. It was an honor to be part of the first workshop, remain part of it over the years and be involved when George and other former St. Louis media colleagues got the Washington (DC) ABJ to launch an offshoot of the program.

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