BY THE FLORIDA COURIER STAFF
Rumors of George Curry’s sudden death circulated heavily in journalistic circles on Aug. 20, a Saturday night.
“I was at dinner with my family when I got a text that ‘George Curry passed,’” said Florida Courier Publisher Charles W. Cherry II. “My first instinct was to not believe it without confirmation, so we started making phone calls and doing online and social media research.
“I even called George’s cell phone and left a message for him, paraphrasing author Mark Twain – ‘I hope reports of your death are greatly exaggerated’ – and hoping for a call back. Of course, it never came.”
Curry’s death was confirmed by Dr. Bernard Lafayette, chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) shortly before midnight.
“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, Ala., where Curry bloomed as a civil rights and sports writer as Steele grew into a politician and civil rights leader.
“Black America, and in fact 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 NNPA President Dr. Benjamin Chavis.
It’s hard to believe that Curry, who led the NNPA as editor-in-chief of its news wire from 2003 to 2007 and then from 2012 to 2015, has died, said Washington Informer Publisher and NNPA Chair Denise Rolark Barnes, who called Curry a giant in the journalism profession.
‘Time, energy, wisdom’
“George’s uncompromising journalistic leadership delivered on Emerge (magazine’s) promise to deliver edgy, hard-hitting, intellectual, well-written and thoroughly researched content that attracted national attention and left an indelible mark on the lives of many,” Rolark Barnes said.
“George provided so much of his time, energy, wisdom and incredible journalistic genius to the Black Press. His work will stand as a lasting legacy of journalistic excellence and integrity of which all of us in the Black Press and the journalism industry at large can feel extremely proud.”
Black Press ‘icon’
Freddie Allen, the managing editor of the NNPA News Wire, called Curry an icon in the Black Press and said that his legacy of mentoring young journalists will bear fruit for many years to come.
Allen and Curry were part of a Black media delegation that worked with the Black AIDS Institute to cover the 2016 International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa.
“George taught me what it meant to be a professional journalist and also about the importance of working in the Black Press,” Allen said. “His writing and insight on critical issues affecting the Black community will be sorely missed. I’m thankful for the time we spent together in Durban.”
Curry was a consummate journalist with integrity as his mantra, said Dorothy R. Leavell, publisher of the Crusader newspapers in Chicago and Gary, Indiana.
“We shall miss this voice of reason and thought-provoking columns full of researched facts. It was just the week of August 13th that George wrote a column titled, ‘Even Funerals Are Not Family Reunions Anymore.’ He used his family as an example of the loss of closeness that he had enjoyed during his childhood and early adult life and bemoaned the fact that at his cousin Charlene’s funeral the week before that closeness was no longer there,” Leavell said.
“What was ironic is that he pledged that he would try to get his family back together…I’m sure George meant to keep that pledge and perhaps the closeness of his family will become a reality, but at a large cost,” said Leavell, adding that she hoped his family will reunite at his funeral.
“We miss you already, George.”
CBC, Clinton react
The news of Curry’s death not only reverberated throughout Black media. The loss was also felt in the halls of government.
“Curry was a giant in journalism and he stood on the frontlines of the Civil Rights era and used his voice to tell our stories when others would not,” CBC Chairman G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), said in a statement. “The CBC offers our sympathies and condolences to his friends and family, his readers from around the country, and to the countless number of individuals he mentored in the art of reporting and journalistic writing until his untimely death.”
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed her thoughts about Curry, whom she called a 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,” Clinton said in a statement.
Stacy M. Brown of the NNPA News Wire contributed to this report.