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George Curry, pioneering black journalist leaves a bold legacy

8/26/2016, 6 a.m.

Civil rights and pioneering black political journalist George E. Curry, who died suddenly on Aug. 20 of heart failure, is being remembered this week as the dean of Black press columnists because of his riveting weekly commentary in Black newspapers across the country.

Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. with whom Curry traveled extensively, called him a proud and tireless advocate of the Black press.

"He stood tall,” Jackson said. “He helped pave the way for other journalists of color to do their jobs without the questions and doubts."

George Curry

George Curry

Curry, an author, commentator, columnist, and trainer of young journalists, died suddenly after complaining of chest pains. He was a former editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association's news service, and Emerge Magazine which he led to win more than 40 national journalism awards.

Over his long career, he worked 11 years for the Chicago Tribune as a reporter and Washington Correspondent. He also was a reporter for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Sports Illustrated. Most recently, he was a weekly commentator on Rev. Al Sharpton’s radio show and a syndicated columnists for many black newspapers across the country.

In 2003, he was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists for his work as editor-in-chief of the NNPA News Service and BlackPressUSA.com, NNPA's public news website.

Curry was 69. His funeral is set for Aug. 27 at 11 a.m. at the Weeping Mary Baptist Church, 2701 20th Street, in his hometown of Tuscaloosa, Ala.

A viewing will take place from 8:30 a.m.-11 am. Rev. Al Sharpton will give the eulogy.

Curry grew up in Tuscaloosa during the height of racial segregation, and often said he "fled Alabama" when he went to college and vowed never to return.

But Curry's fiancée Ann Ragland said he always told her to return him home to Tuscaloosa when he died.

Dr. Charles Steele, SCLC president, who grew up with Curry in Tuscaloosa and was a lifelong friend said Curry was “was a pacesetter with the pen.”

"He saw things that other people didn't see," Steele said. "And once he saw those things, he embraced them and exposed them in terms of putting information into the hands of people who would normally be left out of the process, meaning the African-American community."

Curry began his journalism career at Sports Illustrated, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and then the Chicago Tribune. But he is most revered for his editorship of the award-winning former Emerge Magazine and more recently for his work as editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association from 2001-2007 at NNPA offices located at Howard University. He returned to leadership of the NNPA News Service in 2012 until last year when he left amidst budgetary issues.

NNPA Chairwoman Denise Rolark Barnes, said it hard to believe that Curry is no longer with us.

“The news of George's death leaves a tremendous void that will be difficult to fill," said Rolark Barnes who is publisher of the Washington Informer. "His work will stand as a lasting legacy of journalist excellence and integrity of which all of us in the Black Press and in the journalistic field at large can field extremely proud."

Jake Oliver, publisher and chairman of the Baltimore-based Afro American Newspapers, who first hired Curry as NNPA editor-in-chief, said he was a journalist par excellence.

“He spent a lot of time at his craft and perfected it at a high level. And as a result, he was able to generate national and indeed, international respect," Oliver said.

Sharpton said Curry's legacy is integrity, boldness, and holding people, including Black leaders who were his friends, accountable.

“He was a man of supreme integrity and boldness that I don't know if I've met anyone that came close," Sharpton said.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Presidential nominee, called Curry 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," she said.

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

TriceEdneyWire contributed to this report