Funeral Services for Journalist George Curry Will Be Held at 11 AM Saturday at Weeping Mary Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

George Curry sits in a classroom at Howard University in Washington, in 2005.(AP Photo/Kevin Wolf, File)
George Curry sits in a classroom at Howard University in Washington, in 2005.(AP Photo/Kevin Wolf, File)

The Rev. Jesse Jackson describes legendary commentator, author and black press champion George Curry, as “talented, tough, tenacious.”

Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton adds to that: “a tireless crusader for justice, and a true agent of change.”

And Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield calls him “a giant in journalism [who] stood on the front lines of the Civil Rights era and used his voice to tell our stories when others would not.”

Accolades poured in with news of the sudden passing of Mr. Curry, of Laurel, Md., who died of heart failure on Saturday. He was 69.

“It is with deep regret to inform everyone that my brother, George, passed away earlier today. It was a shock to our family,” Mr. Curry’s sister, Christie Love, posted on Facebook just after midnight Sunday.

During a more than 45-year career spent in both mainstream and black press, Mr. Curry built a reputation for no-holds barred coverage of America’s race issues and commentary on the black experience.

“Millions of African people all over the world, had come to know George Curry as a fearless scholar and writer who used his pen and wit to aggressively advance the cause of freedom, justice and equality for Black people and for the whole of humanity,” said Dr. Benjamin Chavis, president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

The award-winning veteran began his career in 1970 at Sports Illustrated, where he was the second African American hired by the magazine. At the tail end of his career, he’d been working to re-launch Emerge — the edgy magazine he’d shepherded from 1993-2000. His work there rocketed him into the ranks of national thought leaders.

“Journalism has lost a giant. I have lost a dear friend,” said Rainbow PUSH Founder Jackson, whose 1984 presidential campaign Mr. Curry covered. “George was part of the first wave of African-American journalists to finally be allowed to cover a presidential campaign for the so-called mainstream press,” Jackson recalled. “He helped pave the way for other journalists of color to do their jobs without questions and doubts.”

Born Feb. 23, 1947 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Mr. Curry obtained his bachelor’s degree in history from Knoxville College in Tennessee in 1970. In 1972, he was hired at The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He joined the Chicago Tribune as Washington Correspondent from 1983-1989; then served as New York bureau chief until 1993.

“George was the guy you wanted to emulate in the newsroom. He was fearless. He worked and walked with confidence,” said friend and former Tribune reporter Jerry Thomas, now in public relations.

Art Norman, a board member of The National Association of Black Journalists-Chicago, recalls Mr. Curry helping launch a mentoring program for Chicago Public Schools teens.

“He asked us to write a grant proposal to the Tribune Foundations. He said, ‘We must identify and nurture potential journalists before college.’ With George’s help, we were awarded a $10,000 grant. Many of us will never forget his commitment to those students,” he said.

Mr. Curry left in 1993 to helm Emerge, a political magazine known for its avant-garde covers; long-form stories; and tackling topics few would discuss openly. Emerge won more than 40 national journalism awards, and Mr. Curry became the first African-American president of the American Society of Magazine Editors.

Mr. Curry was most proud of Emerge’s four-year campaign to win the release of Kemba Smith, a 22-year-old who under mandatory sentencing got 24 1/2 years in prison for a minor role in a drug ring. President Bill Clinton pardoned Smith in December 2000 — six months after Emerge folded.

“I am saddened by the loss of an outstanding journalist and supportive friend. 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,” Hillary Clinton said.

Up until his death, his syndicated column appeared weekly in more than 200 newspapers.

Besides his sister, survivors include his son, Edward Curry, and a granddaughter.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Weeping Mary Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Source: Chicago Sun Times | Maudlyne Ihejirika