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Gone, but never forgotten: Civil Rights Journalist George E. Curry

HAZEL TRICE EDNEY | 8/25/2016, 8:25 p.m. | Updated on 8/26/2016, 9:55 p.m.
“He was a pacesetter with the pen. He saw things that other people didn’t see,” said Steele. “And once he ...
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(TriceEdneyWire) – Pioneering civil rights and Black political journalist George E. Curry, the widely respected dean of Black press columnists because of his riveting weekly commentary in Black newspapers across the country, died suddenly of heart failure Saturday.

Ann Ragland, Curry’s fiancee and closest confidant, drove him to the Washington Adventist Hospital emergency room after he called her complaining of chest pains Saturday afternoon. He insisted that she take him instead of calling an ambulance. She said he remained conscience throughout the cardiac tests and the doctor assured her he would be fine. But his heart took a sudden turn. She said the doctor tried to explain to her that the turn was totally unexpected.

“He said, ‘He was okay, but then his heart just stopped,’” she reflected.

Curry was 69.

“He stood tall. He helped pave the way for other journalists of color to do their jobs without the questions and doubts,” said the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., with whom Curry traveled extensively. “He was a proud and tireless advocate of the Black press.”

Rumors of Curry’s death circulated heavily in journalistic circles on Saturday night until it was confirmed shortly before midnight by Dr. Bernard Lafayette, chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and once confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“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 said through his spokesman, Maynard Eaton, SCLC national communications director.

Curry’s connection to the SCLC was through his longtime childhood friend, confidant and ally in civil rights, Dr. Charles Steele, SCLC president. Lafayette said Dr. Steele was initially too distraught to make the announcement himself and was also awaiting notification of Curry’s immediate family.

Steele and Curry grew up together in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where Curry bloomed as a civil rights and sports writer as Steele grew into a politician and civil rights leader. The two remained life-long friends.

Ragland announced that a viewing is scheduled for Friday evening. A second viewing will be held Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. followed by the funeral at 11 a.m. at the Weeping Mary Baptist Church, 2701 20th St. in Tuscaloosa. The Rev. Al Sharpton will give the eulogy. Jackson is scheduled to speak during the Friday viewing, but the time and venue were not confirmed by deadline.

Having grown up in Tuscaloosa during the height of racial segregation, Curry often said he “fled Alabama” and vowed never to return when he went away to college. However, Ragland said he always told her to return him home to Tuscaloosa upon his death.

Additional details will be announced this week.

The early years

Curry was born Feb. 23, 1947 in Tuscaloosa. He graduated from Druid High School and enrolled at Knoxville College in Tennessee. He was editor of the school paper, quarterback and co-captain of the football team, and a student member of the school’s board of trustees. He also attended Harvard and Yale on summer history scholarships.