Focus Policy Blog


Joint Center Mourns Passing of George E. Curry

George E. Curry, journalist and champion of the Black press, died this Saturday at the age of 69. Curry was the founding editor of Emerge Magazine and had written for various publications across the country.

“In losing George, we lost a giant in journalism, policy, and politics,” said Joint Center President Spencer Overton. When he passed, Curry was working on rebuilding an online version of Emerge.In December 2015, Curry invited Overton to join an Advisory Board for the new Emerge, which Overton quickly accepted.”George’s work on Emerge during the 1990s continues to shape our nation’s policies today,” said Overton. “The Emerge cover story on the sentencing of Kemba Smith is just one example. Emerge put a human face on the toll of excessive sentencing laws. As a result of this early exposure in Emerge, a movement grew, which led to Congress reducing some of the disparity between crack and cocaine sentencing. Also due to this early work, we now are having a real debate about the value of mandatory minimums, and Congress may pass sentencing reforms in the near future.”

Curry graduated from Knoxville College in 1970 and went on to become the second African-American to work at Sports Illustrated . He worked for numerous newspapers including The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Chicago Tribune. Curry also co-founded the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists, and was the first African-American president of the American Society of Magazine Editors. In 2003, Curry was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists and was on their list of Most Influential Black Journalists of the 20th Century. He regularly wrote on the Joint Center’s work, such as its report on the political status of elected officials and voters of color after 50 years of the Voting Rights Act

“Perhaps most important was the impact George had in shaping a whole generation of today’s African-American journalists, elected officials, policymakers, and scholars,” said Overton. “In the 1990s, when many of us were in school or just starting our careers, Emerge validated those of us interested in politics. It educated us and helped teach us how to think, and it also affirmed and encouraged our interests in policy. Commitment to the African-American community and Black institutions, quality writing, truth, and integrity were all values instilled in us at a formative period in our lives by George through Emerge.”

“Throughout his life George always supported and mentored those behind him, and I am fortunate to be one of the many,” said Overton.

Click on the following links for statements by Freddie Allen, Congressional Black Caucus Chair G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Denise Rolark Barnes, Cloves Campbell, Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Hillary Clinton, Kenneth J. Cooper, James Farmer, Sarah Glover, Ed Gordon, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Benjamin Jealous, Bernard Lafayette, Dorothy R. Leavell, Roland Martin, April Ryan, Rev. Al Sharpton, A. Shuanise Washington, Kemba Smith, Charles Steele, DeWayne Wickham, and Phill Wilson in obituaries in the Associated Press, CBCF, Chicago Tribune, Jet Magazine, Journal-sims, The Mississippi Link, NABJ, NewsOne, NowNew Pittsburgh Courier, The Root, The Sacramento Observer, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Trice Edney News Wire

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The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Aug. 27, at the Weeping Mary Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Rev. Al Sharpton will give the eulogy. A viewing is set for 8:30-11 a.m. before the funeral.