By Dylan Deprey
Inspiring. Thought-Provoking. Pioneer.
The words above are just a spattering of nouns and verbs thrown at a blank canvas. There are no sentences, no paragraphs and no direction without an author. An author is a leader, a conductor for the symphony of sounds that craft a story. While the words above do not tell a story, they do describe an author, a leader, and Black media pioneer.
Civil Rights advocate, veteran journalist and long time Milwaukee Courier column contributor George E. Curry died on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016. At 69-years-old, Curry died unexpectedly during an emergency room visit at Washington Adventist Hospital in Tamoka Park, MD according to his sister Charlotte Purvis.
Curry was born and raised Tuscaloosa, Ala. At seven years old, his father abandoned his mother and three sisters, leaving him to take charge as man of the house.
Dr. Charles Steele, president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, is one of Curry’s longtime friends.
The two grew up in a segregated South where Jim Crow was the law of the land. Steele said they made a pact early on to always help others and stay true to their upbringing. As authors, they wanted to make an impact and inspire those experiencing the same struggle by telling stories.
“We were two fellas from impoverished backgrounds, where African- Americans endured second-class citizenship. We were able to overcome and find success. We will celebrate that success in remembering the life of George Curry this weekend,” Steele said.
Curry picked up the pen and pad at a young age. He was the sports editor for his high school newspaper as well as starting quarterback for the football team. After working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in New York he enrolled at the historically black Knoxville College, in Knoxville Tennessee. After earning his bachelors degree in History in 1970, he got a chance at being the second African American reporter for Sports Illustrated.
After taking a trip out to the Midwest, he worked as a beat reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for 11 years. He later took on the position as the Washington D.C. correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. He was especially known for taking the editor-in-chief position at the African American magazine, Emerge, in 1993. After firing the existing staff and assembling a team of top-tiered black journalists, Curry restructured the magazine mentality from fighting with celebrity headlining news to stories focused on providing quality news.
Shaunice Washington, president and CEO of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Incorporated (CBCF), said that Curry’s editorial work with Emerge broke down the barriers for African Americans in the journalism field.
“An unabashed supporter of civil rights, Curry channeled his views into Emerge magazine, a cutting- edge news magazine for and about the Black community,” Washington said.
“The thought-provoking articles and uncompromising cover art were known for bringing the concerns of the African – American community to the forefront of American social and political discussions,” Washington said.
Curry received the 1995 Journalist of the Year award for his restructuring of the magazine. After his seven year run, Emerge printed its last issue in 2000. In 2006 Curry was the President and CEO of the African American column syndication outlet, George Curry Media. He also was the editor-in-chief for the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA.)
Even at the helm of multiple news sources, in March 2016, Curry was working to reincarnate Emerge Magazine into the world of online news as EmergeOnline.com.
While Curry may never see Emergeonline.com grow as he first reintroduced Emerge back in 1993, his legacy for African American’s voice in news media will last longer then the many words he has written over the years.
His funeral will be held in his hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama on Saturday Aug. 27. Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network, will give the eulogy at Weeping Mary Baptist Church.
“I am saddened beyond words upon hearing of the death of George Curry, Publisher of Emerge Magazine,” said Sharpton in a tweet following Curry’s death. “He was a giant and trailblazer.”