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Volume 72, Issue 40, Monday, October 16, 2006


Pioneering journalism professor dies at 84

The Daily Cougar

George McElroy, the first black person to teach journalism at UH, who often said he was born "with ink in his blood" was buried Friday after dying of acute respiratory syndrome on Oct. 7. He was 84. 

"He kept being a journalist up until the day of his death. He never really stopped talking, writing, or sharing," Rev. William Lawson, the founding pastor of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, said. 

McElroy had recently been given a Lifetime Achievement Award last month from the Houston Association of Black Journalists at its Scholarship Gala. Although he said he had pneumonia that night, one could hardly tell as he stood on stage, making jokes and smiling upon the hundreds who gave him a standing ovation. 

He was a UH professor for almost four years, according to Campbell Titchener, who became chairman of the school's department of communication after McElroy was hired. He remembers the influence McElroy had on black students upon his arrival.

"At UH he became a rallying point for black students during some serious racial unrest, Titchener said, "He refused to be a leader in the protests, but he was sympathetic and a good listener." 

Titchener spoke with McElroy regularly about the university and its students. McElroy once let him in on a secret he can still recall to this day.

"He once gave me quite a compliment in the middle of a period of racial unrest. He said, ‘By the way, the black students think you're OK'," Titchener said. 

While McElroy was at UH, he spent considerable time working with The Daily Cougar.

"During his time with us, the Cougar had it's first black editor," Titchener said. 

As a native Houstonian, McElroy dedicated his work to enlightening blacks in this city, shining light on issues concerning them that were sometimes neglected.

"He gave to us a voice into the darkness of the media," Lawson said.

His road to success, however, did not come easy. Although he was honorably discharged from World War II, many didn't care about that when he returned to the U.S. What they did care about was his skin color.

The University of Texas denied him acceptance into their journalism school because he was black. McElroy later sued, but he was not discouraged. He decided to attend Texas Southern University.

He became the first black reporter at the Houston Post and the first black writer to have a weekly column for that newspaper. He was also the first black to receive a master's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, the first journalism school in the nation, and the first black with a journalism degree to teach journalism in the Houston Independent School District.

"He was all of these firsts, but he wasn't the type of man that vocalized this. He was very humble," Serbino Sandifer-Walker, his former student and colleague at Texas Southern, said.

"I'll always treasure knowing someone who was genuinely committed to journalism," he said.

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