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A Tribute to the late George E. Curry

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. presents a tribute to the late George E. Curry, a veteran journalist and civil rights activist who was considered by many to be a dean of the Black press died August 20, 2016. He was 69.

Born George Edward Curry on February 23, 1947, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; his mother worked as a domestic and his father was a mechanic. Curry's father abandoned the family when Curry was just seven years old, leaving him to step into the role of the man of the house, assisting his mother in raising his three younger sisters.

In 1966, he moved to New York where he worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) for a year. Curry earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Knoxville College in 1970. Fulfilling a lifelong dream, Curry began his professional journalism career as a reporter for Sports Illustratedmagazine in 1970; he was the second African American hired by the publication.

After leaving Sports Illustrated in 1972, Curry headed west and worked as a beat reporter for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch until 1983. From 1983 until 1989, Curry worked for the Chicago Tribune as a Washington correspondent, covering political stories such as Jesse Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign. From 1989 until 1993, Curry worked as the New York bureau chief of the Tribune. From there, Curry served as editor-in-chief of Emerge Magazine until it folded and printed its final edition in 2003. Under his leadership, the magazine won more than forty national journalism awards.

Curry was the first African-American to be elected president of the American Society of Magazine Editors.

Curry was in the process of reviving Emerge as an online publication at the time of his death.

According to Journal- isms, Emerge was best known for its cover stories on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, one showing the justice sporting an Aunt Jemima knot and the second depicting him as a lawn jockey for the far right. Curry wrote that the covers “were effective because in the minds of many Blacks disgusted with Thomas’ voting record, that’s exactly what he is. And we had the temerity to say it.” Emerge aimed to be the political-magazine counterpart to EBONY, Jet, Essence and Black Enterprise.

In 2003, Curry became editor-in-chief for the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service, or NNPA, and; his weekly syndicated column appeared in more than two hundred African American newspapers. While at NNPA, Curry covered a barrage of issues, such as the Supreme Court’s decision on the University of Michigan’s affirmative action case and the Iraq War.

Also in 2003, Curry was named the National Association of Black Journalists ‘Journalist of the Year’ for his work with the Black Press.

He was the author of 'Jake Gaither: America’s Most Famous Black Coach' (1977), about the celebrated football coach at Florida A&M University, and the editor of the anthology 'The Best of Emerge Magazine' (2003).

John L. Hanson is the producer and host of the nationally syndicated radio series In Black America. It’s heard on home station KUT at 10 p.m. Tuesdays and 6:30 a.m. Sundays — and weekly on close to 20 stations across the country. The weekly podcast of IBA, the only nationally broadcast Black-oriented public affairs radio program, is one of KUT’s most popular podcasts.