His was a voice of moderation during one of the South’s most racially divisive periods.
Ralph McGill was born in Tennessee in 1898. His sports columns in the Nashville Banner caught the eye of Atlanta Constitution editor Clark Howell, who hired McGill in 1929. By 1941, McGill was the paper’s editor, and over the next 30 years his columns brought him national fame and made him a target for the region’s die-hard segregationists during the civil rights era.
McGill reported on everything from the Great Depression to the Vietnam War. He never outwardly called for integration, knowing he would lose his readership, but was branded as a traitor to the white south for urging Georgians to obey federal law and shun violence. He took on Governor Eugene Talmadge and the Ku Klux Klan and his 1958 columns on the temple bombing in Atlanta earned him the Pulitzer Prize. Readers either reviled or revered him.
The crusading editor who was a voice for tolerance died on February 3, 1969, Today in Georgia History.