George Edward Curry was perhaps the most vocal champion for independent Black media and he maintained an equal footing in the realm of civil rights. Curry passed this weekend at the age of 69 just as he was in the process of reviving the award-winning Emerge Magazine as an online property.
Curry was born February 23, 1947 in Tuscaloosa, Ala to a middle class family. After graduating from Druid High School, Curry was a standout quarterback at Knoxville University in Tennessee. At Knoxville, Curry also became the school’s sports editor and pursued summer studies at Yale and Harvard Universities.
Among Curry’s many career achievements, he was a reporter for the St. Louis-Dispatch in the ’70’s and wrote for Sports Illustrated. In the ’80’s, he joined The Chicago Tribune and focused his widely read columns towards the concerns of the African-American community. Curry’s coverage also included the 1984 presidential campaigns of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and the vice presidential campaigns of Geraldine Ferraro and George Bush.
Emerge Magazine was established in 1989 by Wilmer C. Ames, a former reporter for TIME, as a publication for “upwardly mobile” African-Americans. TIME and later BET owned Emerge but after Ames’ death in 1993, Curry began running the publication. Curry’s bold approach to journalism made Emerge a success in Black households.
During Curry’s time at the helm until it was forced to end operations in 2000, the magazine won 40 journalism awards. One of Emerge’s most controversial issues was in 1993 when a cover story featured an image of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in an Aunt Jemima-styled headpiece.
Curry also established several journalism organizations such as the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists and the St. Louis Minority Journalism Workshop. In 2001, Curry was named president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association,a news service that provided droves of content to Black-owned and mainstream outlets. He stepped down in 2007 but returned to run it again until October 2015 after budgeting issues and what Curry cited as mistreatment of his staff.
It was at the conclusion of his second NNPA appointment that Curry announced plans to revive Emerge via crowd-funding. At the top of this year, Curry was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council.
Curry’s cause of death has been reported as heart failure. He wrote about suffering a heart attack during his coverage of the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma.
Curry, who was divorced, is survived by his son Edward and other family members.
PHOTO: George Curry promotional headshot