George Curry, a true giant in the world of Black journalism, died on Saturday, Aug. 20. Curry was well-known as the editor for Emerge magazine and championed the Black press and issues important to the Black community. Curry was in the process of establishing an online version of Emerge magazine at the time of his death. He was 69.
He was born on Feb. 23, 1947, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and raised by his mother after his father abandoned the family when he was just 7 years old. Curry’s mother worked as a maid and it was up to the young child to help her in raising his three younger sisters. He graduated from Druid High School in 1965 where he played football and started his love of journalism as sports editor of the school newspaper. Curry was very involved in the civil rights struggle and became a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) while living in New York. He later attended Knoxville College and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. In 1970, he started his career as a professional journalist at Sports Illustrated magazine, becoming the second Black journalist hired by the publication.
He went on to work for the St. Louis Dispatch while at the same time working behind the scenes to champion the cause of Black journalists. In 1977, he founded the St. Louis Minority Journalism Workshop to train high school students seeking a career in journalism. Curry eventually left the St. Louis Dispatch and began working for the Chicago Tribune as a Washington correspondent from 1983 until 1993, covering political stories such as Jesse Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign. Curry went on to become editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and under his leadership the publication won more than 40 national journalism awards. The magazine ceased publication in 2000 because of financial issues, to the surprise of many readers and supporters of Curry and his work.
But Curry continued his work in media, and in 2003 he was named editor-in-chief for the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service, or NNPA, and BlackPressUSA.com. He also wrote a syndicated column that appeared in over 200 Black newspapers. In 2003, he was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists; and was also on NABJ’s list of “Most Influential Black Journalists of the 20th Century.”
In 2015, Curry suffered a heart attack while covering the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama. Curry called the episode his second close call with death and urged others to pay close attention to their health.
Curry was living in the Maryland suburbs near Washington, D.C., when, according to his family, he began complaining of chest pain and was driven to a hospital this past Saturday. He was admitted and later went into cardiac arrest and died. Heartfelt condolences from notable public figures, including, Roland Martin, Rev. Al Sharpton and others recall Curry as a consummate professional and friend whose work and presence will be missed. 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.”
The family will transport his body to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where the Van Hughes Funeral Home will handle the arrangements. No date had been set for a funeral at press time.