George E. Curry

Posted in: HITS Bios

George E. Curry

“No one should overlook the devastating toll this deadly disease has taken on the African American community.”

Words to live by. But then again, this hero has written enough words on HIV/AIDS to fill volumes.

“The truth is that all of us, including the media, must do more. It should not be an issue of placing value judgments on others or feeling that only one segment of the community should lead this fight. It’s time to put aside excuses, prejudices and petty differences.”

Just one of the many calls to action by George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service and His weekly column is syndicated to more than 200 African American newspapers with a combined readership of 15 million. He is also on the National Association of Black Journalists’ list of the “Most Influential Black Journalists of the 20th Century.”

Curry’s work at the NAPA ranged from attending the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments in the University of Michigan affirmative action cases to traveling to Doha, Qatar to report on America’s war with Iraq. In Doha, he was seen by billions of television viewers around the world, the lone African American among more than 300 reporters at the daily news briefing. While in the Persian Gulf, Curry obtained the first exclusive interview with Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks after the fall of Baghdad.

Prior to joining the NNPA, Curry was editor-in-chief of Emerge: Black America’s Newsmagazine from 1993 until June 2000. He is also past president of the American Society of Magazine Editors, the first African American and non-New York-based editor to hold the association’s top office. Before taking over as editor of Emerge, Curry served as New York bureau chief and Washington correspondent for the Chicago Tribune.

Under Curry’s leadership, Emerge won more than 40 national journalism awards. He did not shirk from controversy at the magazine. Curry published a story about secret medical experiments conducted on African Americans, ran a cover story asking “Is Jesus Black?” and printed such insightful articles as “Rape of a Spelman Coed.” In Curry’s boldest move, he commissioned a 1993 magazine cover that depicted U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas with an Aunt Jemima-like handkerchief on his head.

He is proudest of his four-year campaign to win the release of Kemba Smith, a 22-year-old Richmond, Va. woman who was given a mandatory sentence of 24½ years in prison for her minor role in a drug ring. In May 1996, Emerge published a 17-page cover story titled “Kemba’s Nightmare” with follow-up stories in 1998 and 1999. President Clinton pardoned Kemba in December 2000.

As a reporter for the Tribune, Curry covered the 1984 presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson and the vice presidential campaigns of Geraldine Ferraro and the senior George Bush. He accompanied Jackson to Rome in 1985 for an audience with Pope John Paul II. In 1992, Curry covered the presidential campaign of Bill Clinton and the vice presidential campaign of Senator Al Gore.

He is the author of Jake Gaither: America’s Most Famous Black Coach and served as editor of The Affirmative Action Debate and The Best of Emerge. Curry also contributed to Walter Mosley’s anthology, Black Genius: African American Solutions To African American Problems.

Born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Curry attended Knoxville College in Tennessee, as well as Harvard and Yale. At Knoxville, Curry was editor of the school paper, quarterback and co-captain of the football team and a member of the school’s Board of Trustees. In 1986, he wrote and served as chief correspondent for the widely praised television documentary, Assault on Affirmative Action, which was aired as part of the Frontline series on PBS. He was also featured in a segment of One Plus One, a national PBS documentary on mentoring that was first televised in 1989.

In 1996, Curry was part of the weeklong Nightline special, “America in Black and White.” He has also appeared on the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, The Today Show, 20/20, Good Morning America, CNN, C-SPAN, BET, Fox Network News and MSNBC. The National Association of Black Journalists named Curry its 2003 “Journalist of the Year.”

After delivering the 1999 commencement address at Kentucky State University, he was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters degree. In May 2000, Lane College in Jackson, Tenn. also presented Curry with an honorary doctorate after his commencement speech. Later that year, the University of Missouri presented Curry with its Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism, the highest honor the School of Journalism bestows.

Curry became the founding director of the St. Louis Minority Journalism Workshop in 1977. Seven years later, he became founding director of the Washington Association of Black Journalists’ annual high school journalism workshop. In February 1990, Curry organized a similar workshop in New York City.

Curry’s work with aspiring journalists has not been limited to the United States. He has conducted journalism workshops for teens in Germany and in 1995, he directed a program that brought together college students in the U.S. and those studying journalism in Senegal to produce two newspapers for the African/African American Summit in Dakar, Senegal.

And then there are his words, a powerful tool George Curry is using in the fight against AIDS for a simple reason.

“Too many lives have already been needlessly lost.”

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