(George Edward Curry, center, at a Morgan State University forum on the Black press. Photo courtesy of Ericka Blount Danois, far left.)
Black Press Columnist George Curry Dead at 69
By Hazel Trice Edney
(TriceEdneyWire) – 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, Aug. 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 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 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.”
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 was former editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service. The former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, Curry also wrote 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.
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 24 1/2 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 was 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. His work in journalism has taken him to Egypt, England, France, Italy, China, Germany, Malaysia, Thailand, Cuba, Brazil, Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, Mexico, Canada, and Austria. In August 2012, he was part of the official US delegation and a presenter at the USBrazil seminar on educational equity in Brasilia, Brazil. George Curry is a member of the National Speakers Association and the International Federation for Professional Speakers.
His speeches have been televised on C-SPAN and reprinted in Vital Speeches of the Day magazine. In his presentations, he addresses such topics as diversity, current events, education, and the media. 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, quarterback and co-captain of the football team, a student member of the school’s board of trustees, and 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 PBS’ Frontline series. He was featured in a segment of One Plus One, a national PBS documentary on mentoring. Curry was part of the weeklong ABC News’ Nightline special, America in Black and White. He has also appeared on the CBS Evening News, ABC’s World News Tonight, NBC’s The Today Show, ABC’s 20/20 and Good Morning America, CNN, C-SPAN, BET, Fox News, MSNBC, and ESPN. After delivering the 1999 commencement address at Kentucky State University, he was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters.
In May 2000, Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee, also presented Curry with an honorary doctorate after his commencement speech. Later that year, the University of Missouri presented Curry with its Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism, the same honor it had earlier bestowed on such luminaries as Joseph Pulitzer, Walter Cronkite, John H. Johnson, and Winston Churchill. In 2003, the National Association of Black Journalists named Curry Journalist of the Year.
Curry became the founding director of the St. Louis Minority Journalism Workshop in 1977. Seven years later, he became founding director of the Washington Association of Black Journalists’ annual high school journalism workshop. In February 1990, Curry organized a similar workshop in New York City. 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.
Before taking over as editor of Emerge, Curry served as New York bureau chief and as Washington correspondent for The Chicago Tribune. Prior to joining The Tribune, he worked for 11 years as a reporter for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and for two years as a reporter for Sports Illustrated.
Curry was chairman of the board of directors of Young DC, a regional teen-produced newspaper; immediate past chairman of the Knoxville College board of trustees; and served on the board of directors of the Kemba N. Smith Foundation and St. Paul Saturdays, a leadership training program for young African American males in St. Louis. Curry was also a trustee of the National Press Foundation, chairing a committee that funded more than 15 workshops modeled after the one he directed in St. Louis.
Love, American Style / Truuer than the red, white and bluuueee!
It’s the song from an old TV show
Back when Hill was shifting from Goldwater Girl
To ambitious law student seeking writ, not revolution
Last night, she moved into the place
Banishing the ’08 failed entitlement
Taking a village, indeed!
Barack, Michelle, some pork-chop preachers
(the latter Deese Negroes Cooning)
Black People To The Rescue!
Too bad Santa and Superman didn’t show
Wanted to hear their testimonials about puppies, truth and justice
If balloons, CVs, Alicia Keys and Katy Perry produced trust, Hill has won
But I would count the change she makes
before walking out the store
Hill and Kaine were proud of how
white-bred boring they are
And how they are, like, real grownups
(“A man you can bait with a Tweet is not a man you can trust with nuclear weapons”)
But we can trust you to bomb from above
Because that’s what America has become
Available in Marvin and Tammi flavors
As Blacks dance with Joe Biden down the “Soul Train” line
Arguing over who gets to play Crockett and who’s stuck with Tubbs
Hill: “America is great because America is good”
Yeah, there it is, white supremacy slipped in with the beer
But why were so many Black people cheering?
Did they know that while they were integrating
The Sister Prosecutor of the cops who killed Freddie Gray
Threw up her hands because of a rigged system?
Or did their inclusion into the Party turn their cheers to Nyquil?
Wow, even Trayvon’s and the other moms are riding the donkey
Black folks have had their turn at the Prez bat
And now want their old, good jobs back
Leaving the Party with the Black cat far behind in history
As caution or model
Blacks love Dems, treasure their booty call status
Knowing the platform is a fake prenup
But showing it off
Like a gold-plated engagement ring
Not like those crazy Bernie people
Dumb to democracy
Not accepting just half of freedom
Cheering and booing at will
Trying to not choke at the Clinton’s historic s/triangulation
SmallPOX News (*cough* devils *cough*)
Produced their Hill Hate Card in an interesting way:
Spent a lot of airtime on the Burned Out
Before they split the scene
(With their YUGE, inflatable doobie!)
Searching for an abstract freedom
That freezes imperialism
News Flash: The RNC will never nominate
Kermit The Frog or the ghost of Fred Rogers
Maybe that thrown-away vote
Will one day hit the right person between the eyes
Makes me want to
Cross at the Green not in-between
Or just mark “X”
The conflict is clear
Amiri Baraka, critiquing Jesse’s ’88 DNC’s crossover joint, said it best:
“Both the slave and the slavemaster can’t be right”
But this is what Obama has wrought
Confusion disguised as progress
The Obamas are the fulfillment of so many dreams
I just don’t know whose
Hill’s great advantage?
That maddening Trumpet wailing on the other side
Archie Bunker sitting on a pile of cash
Dialing the Russians on his iPhone
America Ferrera had it right: “He’s making America hate again”
The DNC’s mentally colonized will be put to good use just this one time
To judge this unpopularity contest
Just leave Steve Harvey home this time
Daddy-O, aping Reagan
Applied select crayon to Norman Rockwell
Weaving the strands of American struggle
In ways that would make Howie Zinn’s ghost weep
(MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow: Dems convention had “eaten the Republican Party whole”)
But a clear thought did emerge:
This is, Daddy-O explained, a “fundamental choice of who we are as a people”
(As usual, he meant American, not Black)
So the POTUS-to-POTUS pass has been made
And Black people were included in every respect and aspect
Which makes empire acceptable
Because when Black people love
It’s for real
Boomerang-ing while chomping Peanuts
Hmm: Lucy never gets Schroeder, Sally never nabs Linus,
Charlie Brown ducks the Little Red-Haired Girl
And Linus never catches up with Miss Othmar
Snoopy, wearing Panther shades, is the only one who’s free
He kicks on the door to demand his reparations
And after getting what he wants
Leaves the gang to their dysfunction
I hope Blacks ultimately remember
That unrequited love is freer than a dollar-store midnight raid
‘Cause it’s just pain smoothed over by denial
A love hostage with an unpaid ransom
It’s a perversion of Carter G.
Going in the FRONT door
But only to babysit, and to be thanked
With only $10 and a kiss on the forehead.
No Bushes to block my Tee Vee, but you know what’s worse?
Charles in Charge [Scott Baio, formerly Chachi ] is speaking to the RNC—or is it the AARP?–in Cleveland
Bad 80s sitcom, speech to match
An Iowa Congressman brags about white, Christian Western Civ
While Redneck Nation is crawling on all floors, yelling “Lock her up!”
Charles in Charge is the week’s theme
The first Trump-Pence logo had it right
It’s gonna happen to the whole nation, without Vaseline
(Here comes the Trump air-kiss!)
“We Like Mike” is an echo to Tee Vee dinners
And black-and-white lynching
Trump: “I will be your champion. I am your voice.”
Nothing new in Rotary Club bonding
He’s just Old School-direct about it
Like his “Law and Order” hero Nixon
Passing out white lightsabers
Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate
Hugging my Yoda doll real tight, because in real trouble, the world is
Ted Cruz, with his 20/20 AD vision
Gives Trump the finger
Enjoys the Doctor Doom act
Accepts the Bronx Cheer
Anger about the family dis holds the iron mask in check
(And lookit Gingrich! Pulling out the Pooper Scooper!
He should turn it toward his nose)
And since when could white people be denied the right to vote?
The RNC floor was the most-pissed whites I’d seen since OJ
Meanwhile, black folks clean the convention
Practicing for the Subway Series election
White world unity left with the Colorado delegation
And America is thinking about putting Charles in Charge?
Pass me a nose-ring and a sign
Malcolm’s sad-versus-mad is blowingblack
So American now, we’ve left Fanon’s ideas to the disturbed
Trained by the Eagle to see too well
No hope from the White Mouse
Done with Daddy O’s equivocating
Shaking in front of the police instead of shaking the police
Time is running out for somebody
to smack the black BACK ON HIM
And you telling me that all I have to look forward to
Is another four to eight of stay-the-course, just okay?
Half a cent from Black Power
And America may want Charles in Charge?
Where’s my Cornel West scarf and dictionary??
He says “The country is having a nervous breakdown”
Maybe Jack, the old-school movie Joker, is right–
This town [U.S.A.] needs an enema
I’m looking to the New York Skyline
for the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man
That heralds the end-days
And the beginning of the Duck Dynasty
Back in Cleveland, the NASCAR dads and scratch-off moms
Are acting out the Alamo in front of my eyes
There’s a brief power outage
And Capt. America is in the corner, cowering behind his shield
Even smallPOX News (*cough* demons *cough*) is imploding
Roger Ailes—who pimped anchors into Rockettes—grabs his trenchcoat
New Jersey Gov. Krispie Creame
The Soprano Made Good
Ate up well his Tee Vee primetime
“Guilty or Not Guilty”—like a gameshow host
(Has Trump pushed him into Stockholm Syndrome?)
While back home, his aides cross a bridge to beg forgiveness in front of a judge and jury
And Assata sticks out her tongue from Cuba
Meanwhile, Mrs. Trump bites off of Michelle
While explaining her rags-to-Prada story
Blurred lines, indeed!
Her accent was too Thicke
Freddie Gray still can’t get justice after four cop trials
and America is risking having Charles in Charge?
I’ll binge on KC Undercover instead.