George Curry, Black Media Advocate, Dies at 69


George E. Curry, a veteran journalist and civil rights activist who was considered by many to be a dean of the Black press died at age 69 Saturday of heart failure, according to published reports.

Curry was known as a longtime global champion of journalism throughout the African diaspora and at the time of his death had been raising money to fund a digital version of Emerge, the award-winning Black focused newsmagazine he launched in 1989.

“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,” friend Bernard Lafayette, chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference told the Trice Edney News Wire.

Born in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Curry had attended Knoxville College before beginning his career at the St. Louis Dispatch, later moving on to Sports Illustrated and then the Chicago Tribune, where he worked as a correspondent in Washington and New York.

But he was best known for his work as founding editor of Emerge and as editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, where he served from 2001-2007 and again from 2012-2015. During his tenure at Emerge he was also elected president of the American Society of Magazine Editors.

Emerge, though short lived was known for its edgy and in-depth reporting and risky subjects including an illustration of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in a headscarf and a longform investigative piece on Kemba Smith, who was incarcerated on drug conspiracy charges largely linked to a boyfriend. She was later pardoned by former President Bill Clinton in 2000.

Curry was largely thought of as an unapologetic steward and champion for the Black press and frequently expressed the need for it in the civil rights narrative.

“The Black press has credibility in our community,” he told SiriusXM radio host Joe Madison earlier this year. “This is what we believe in. In fact, I was covering Rev. Jesse Jackson’s 1984 (presidential) campaign and somebody had said ‘The New York Times said this,’ and ‘the Washington Post said this’ but said, ‘I don’t care, what did JET say!’ “