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MCELROY, GEORGE ALBERT

MCELROY, GEORGE ALBERT (1922–2006). George Albert McElroy, pioneer journalist, newspaper editor, and teacher, was born in Houston, Texas, on May 25, 1922, to Philomena (Woodley) McElroy and Hugh McElroy. His father Hugh McElroy was one of the decorated veterans of the Spanish-American War who charged San Juan Hill with Theodore Roosevelt. Educated in the public schools of Houston, George McElroy showed a special interest in writing and subsequently worked his first journalism job in 1938 when he wrote a youth column for the Houston Informer, the city’s oldest African-American newspaper. McElroy, nicknamed “Mr. Mac,” remained with this paper throughout his fifty-eight-year journalism career and served in almost every capacity from writer to editor-in-chief to editor emeritus.

Upon graduation from high school, McElroy enlisted in the United States Navy and served from 1940 to 1948; he was stationed in Asia for most of that time. From 1950 to 1952 he was an information specialist at Ellington Air Force Base near Houston. Governor Dolph Briscoe commissioned McElroy as an admiral in the Texas Navy in 1973, but he declined the offer because he wanted to continue his career as a journalist.

After receiving an honorable discharge from the armed services, McElroy decided to pursue higher education at the University of Texas at Austin. Although the United States Supreme Court in Sweatt v Painter had ordered the university to admit a black law student in 1950, McElroy was denied admission in 1952. McElroy sued the university but to no avail. The university argued that McElroy was denied because the University of Texas and Texas State University for Negroes (TSUN) were offering the same courses. McElroy then enrolled at TSUN, majored in journalism, and graduated in 1956. During this time he had already advanced his journalism career. He became the first African-American sports writer for the Houston Post, the largest morning newspaper in the city, in 1954 and the first African American to write a weekly column for that newspaper in 1956.

McElroy eventually earned a master’s degree from the prestigious University of Missouri School of Journalism, and he was the first black to receive this from the journalism department at Missouri. He taught journalism at Yates High School in Houston from 1957 to 1969 and was the first black with a degree in journalism to teach that subject in the Houston Independent School District . McElroy’s career contained many other firsts. He went on to become the first black on the University of Houston faculty, first black member of the Houston Press Club, and first black to win first place for his Houston Informer editorials from the Texas Gulf Coast Press Association.

McElroy, as editor of the Houston Informer, served as a major voice of the black community. During the Texas Southern University (TSU) student demonstrations in the early 1960s, when the major news media “blacked out” or refused to publicize civil rights demonstrations, the students turned to McElroy, who kept the Houston community informed about what was happening. He advised the students on how to call the police and sent a photographer to the sites. The photos taken proved to be beneficial in years to come.

McElroy’s journey as a journalist took him on many paths. During the course of his career, he served as the Texas correspondent to Jet magazine and interviewed such famous figures as Martin L. King, Jr.; Muhammad Ali; Fidel Castro; and six presidents of the United States. McElroy became a faculty member at TSU in 1970, and a few years later became head of the journalism department. During his time at the university, he advised and mentored countless students who would go on to become journalists in print or electronic media. He retired from the university in 1989. For his outstanding work and achievements, McElroy also received numerous awards. Chief among those were the “George McElroy Week” proclaimed by Houston Mayor Fred Hofheinz in the 1970s, the Golden Pen Award from the Black Heritage Society in 2000, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Houston Association of Black Journalists in September 2006.

Active in civic affairs, McElroy served as president of the Houston Breakfast Club. He was the first black member of the Texas Gulf Coast Chapter of Sigma Delta Chi, a national journalism fraternity. He was a member of St. Mary of the Purification Catholic Church and belonged to the Knights of Peter Claver. McElroy was married twice; both wives preceded him in death. He was first married to Maxine Prudhomme, and they had one daughter. He married Lucinda Martin, whom he had met while at Ellington Air Force Base, and they had four daughters.

McElroy died on October 7, 2006, and is buried in Houston National Cemetery.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Thomas R. Cole, NO Color Is MY Kind: The Life of Eldrewey Stearns and the Integration of Houston (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997). Houston Chronicle, October 12, 2006. Gary M. Lavergne, Before Brown: Heman Marion Sweatt, Thurgood Marshall, and the Long Road to Justice (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010). Reginald Owens, “The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords,” The Journal for MultiMedia History 3 (2000) (http://www.albany.edu/jmmh/vol3/blackpress/blackpress.html), accessed June 11, 2013.

Merline Pitre

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Merline Pitre, "MCELROY, GEORGE ALBERT ," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmcec), accessed September 22, 2014. Uploaded on June 13, 2013. Modified on August 15, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.