The Black Press and the African American community have lost a legendary leader, fighter and advocate for human rights, civil rights and justice. Indeed, one of its most successful endeavors has made global headlines.
Mary Alice Jervay Thatch, third generation editor and publisher of The Wilmington Journal, died on December 28 at the age of 78.
Mrs Thatch was the proud daughter of publisher Thomas C. Jervay Sr. and the granddaughter of founder RS Jervay, a black printer who started The newspaper originally as Cape Fear Journal in 1927.
“TC” Jervay, as his father was known, did The newspaper a centerpiece of the civil rights struggle in Wilmington “without fear or favor”, so much so that in 1973 a white supremacist bombed the newspaper for supporting 10 falsely accused activists known as the Wilmington Ten .
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Thatch would proudly say that even being set on fire couldn’t “kick daddy out of town” or stop the next edition.
“It was the power of the black press,” said the woman who grew up in the newspaper since she was a baby.
Ms Thatch, who received a BA from Elizabeth City State University and an MA from UNC-Greensboro before embarking on teaching, took over as Newspaper editor-in-chief / publisher in 1996. Under his leadership, the newspaper continued its tradition of being a strong voice for Wilmington’s African American community with incisive reporting and straightforward editorials demanding justice for African Americans, defying Wilmington / New Hanover County and North Carolina’s power structures and keeping – well, long before it was fashionable – that black lives matter.
“The country’s first African-American newspaper was Freedom Journal“Thatch said.” The first line said something like, ‘We’re here to make our own case.’ That will always be Black Press’s mission: to meet the needs of the community we serve. ‘
She was tough on those who worked with her, as Ms. Thatch was a firm believer in two things: the high standards her father set for serving the community, and the belief that the African American community always deserved the best in effort and effort. results. She was a visionary who saw The newspaper doing more and more to serve the community, while fighting the growing economic pressures that threatened to shut down.
That hasn’t stopped her from using the newspaper to defend the right to vote and to demand that the Democratic and Republican parties fairly sponsor the black press with their advertising during election seasons. Thatch also led the North Carolina Black Press to push voter registration, believing empowering black voters to be the key to freedom.
But it was in 2011 that Ms Thatch convinced the National Newspaper Publishers Association, of which she was a member and her father previously led, to advocate for North Carolina to pardon the Wilmington Ten, the 10 falsely convicted civil rights activists. to have set a blank on fire. -grocery store in 1971.
All 10, including the leader, Reverend Ben Chavis, have been sentenced to over 200 years in prison and have spent the past 40 years with the bogus convictions attached to their names.
In 2012, Ms Thatch led a team of black journalists, lawyers and activists to uncover evidence that the Ten were originally framed. She also ran a campaign that garnered over 150,000 petition signatures calling on the government of the day. Beverly Perdue to grant forgiveness of innocence to the Ten.
On December 31, 2012, in one of his last acts in office, Governor Perdue granted 10 pardons of innocence to the Wilmington Ten – an act that cleared their names and made the world news.
But it all started with the unmatched determination of a single black newspaper editor.
Mary Alice Thatch was honored as Editor of the Year by the NNPA the following year, in true Black Press advocacy tradition.
Ms. Thatch was President of the North Carolina Black Publishers Association at the time of her death. She was also a member of the board of directors of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and a former member of the board of directors and secretary of the National Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation.
“On behalf of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, we extend our deepest condolences to… the family of our beloved editor and NNPA leader, Mary Alice Jervay Thatch (RIP),” Reverend Ben Chavis said today. hui president of the NNPA, in a statement. declaration. “We will always fervently uphold his legacy and contribution to the Black Press of America and in particular his leadership of the North Carolina Black Press Association (NCBPA). God protects you.”
“She lived a gigantic and meaningful life and was certainly a voice for Wilmington,” said NCCU lawyer and law professor Irving Joyner. “It is no understatement to proclaim loud and clear that she spoke ‘the truth in power’ and did so flawlessly.”
PR Jervay Jr., NCBPA Media Services, said, “Mary Alice’s strength, commitment and dedication to an organization with purpose has been an inspiration to her fellow African American publishers across the state.
Mary Alice Jervay Thatch leaves to cherish her memory a devoted husband, the Reverend John L. Thatch; three daughters, Robin Thatch Johnson, Shawn Thatch and Johanna Thatch-Briggs; with a host of family and friends.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete at this time.