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A Painful Personal Loss: Losing the Great Crusader, George Edward Curry By Cassiette West-Williams

Chicago, IL – As I stopped in Walgreens on an errand, I passed the newspaper stand and on the front page of The Chicago Crusader was a startling headline.

george-curryI knew that man on the front page. I looked around to make sure no one saw me crying or choking up in a public place. I folded the paper neatly and placed it in my cart, trying to remember why I came in this store. It certainly was not to get emotional over my mentor, former teacher, advisor and father figure, none other than George E. Curry. Mr. Curry had courage and taught his “Bebe” children (his nickname for us) to NEVER be ashamed of our heritage, history and legacy.

This larger than life icon died on August 20th. He was 69 years-old and published reports said that he suffered a heart attack. Services have been held for him in Tuscaloosa, AL. Mr. Curry has gone on to glory and some people are still wiping their tears away and mourning. You don’t have time and space to read ALL of what this man accomplished, but one should know that he was the founder of EMERGE magazine, NNPA News Service Editor-in-Chief, a long-standing member of the National Association of Black Journalist, and a former Chicago Tribune bureau chief and writer, just to name a few accomplishments. He was also a brother, father, grandfather and active member of the Black community.

My father was absent from my life, as my parents divorced when I was in first grade. It was the mentorship of one of Mr. Curry’s peers, Nathanial Sheppard, who was also an international journalist and Chicago Tribune bureau chief, who made the time to help me in high school.

My Uncle Albert was the shoe shine man, standing outside of Tribune. He said Mr. Sheppard tipped well, but learning the business of writing and earning a master’s degree in this field originally came from Nathanial. As I continued to matriculate through the university, Mr. Sheppard relocated out of the country with the Tribune and we lost contact. My journalist cousin, Stan West, had reached out to help me, but he was in California. And there were no cellphones, Twitter, or Facebook back then.

Along came George, with his bold, brash self and I welcomed being a Mizzou “Bebe” kid. In fact, I was proud about joining his “family” because Mr. Curry coached many of us to find internships, our first journalism jobs and how to network with Fortune 500 companies and news executives. George made sure that we were not ignorant at the NABJ conventions and reminded us to stand tall, act professionally, speak articulately and be BLACK! I interned at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as did my ex-husband, and we never were alone in the newsroom, once staffers learned who groomed us for the job.

It was in recent years, even months, that Mr. Curry still counseled me. He published three of my articles in NNPA and hashed out my story ideas. George always had time for me – even as an adult. He spoke to me like a father would tend to his daughter. Even when we disagreed, he was fair and honest to the core about whatever issue was burning in my soul.

A candle will be lit for Mr. Curry at mass next week, but his flame will forever be in my heart. Job well done George. Salute.

Cassiette West-Williams has always been proud to write for the Black press and has been a writer for NNPA newspapers for more than 38 years. Christopher R. Williams earned a full college scholarship from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, primarily from attending all of Mr. Curry’s “FREE” high school workshops for scholars of color.

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