George Curry, the legendary columnist, commentator and champion of black journalists, died of sudden heart failure on Saturday. He was 69.
Curry was the first African American to be elected president of the American Society of Magazine Editors. He grew up in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where he was childhood friends with Bernard Lafayette, the current chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Curry graduated from Knoxville College in Tennessee, where he edited the school paper and played football. He worked as a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune.
“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 told Trice Edney News Wire.
Curry’s syndicated column was carried in more than 200 African American-owned newspapers, and he served two stints as editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a news service for black newspapers.
In the 1990s, Curry was the editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, an edgy political and cultural publication with the tagline “Black America’s Newsmagazine.” In 1993, the cover depicted Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas wearing an Aunt Jemima-style handkerchief next to the word “BETRAYED.”
Within the past year, Curry had been raising money to relaunch Emerge as a digital magazine covering racial injustice and other issues important to the black community.
Curry was a frequent commentator on Black Entertainment Television and on the Rev. Al Sharpton’s radio show.
“I am saddened beyond words upon hearing of the death of George Curry,” Sharpton tweeted Sunday. “He was a giant and trailblazer. RIP.”