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George Albert McElroy

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George Albert McElroy, a journalist and teacher well-known in his native Houston as "Mr. Mac," died Saturday evening, Oct. 7, 2006, at age 84. He loved to say he was born "with ink in his blood," on May 25, 1922. He was the son of Philomena and Hugh McElroy, a decorated veteran who charged the San Juan Hill with Theodore Roosevelt. George McElroy got his first journalism job in 1938 at age 16, writing a youth column for The Houston Informer, the city's oldest black newspaper and where he worked until his last days. From 1940 through 1948, he served in the Navy, stationed in Asia during World War II. He was an Information Specialist at Ellington Air Force Base from 1950 to 1952 (where he would meet Lucinda Martin, his wife of 45 years, who was also in the Air Force). He was proud to serve his country and throughout his life supported various veterans' organizations, including the Burma-China-India group. In 1973, he was commissioned by Gov. Dolph Briscoe as an admiral in the Texas Navy! But journalism was his passion and his mission. After being honorably discharged, he sued for the right to attend the University of Texas journalism school but was denied because of the color of his skin. He and Lucinda attended Texas Southern University, where he pledged Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. He graduated in 1956 but returned a couple of decades later, this time as professor. He started on his path of firsts for a African-American journalist, including becoming a Houston Post reporter; receiving a master's degree from the esteemed University of Missouri journalism school (1970); being on the University of Houston communications faculty, and in 1985 from the Texas Gulf Coast Press Association, winning first place for his Informer editorials. He also taught at Yates High School 1957-1969, leading his students to awards in journalism competitions, an unprecedented feat for a black school. He later wrote a weekly column for The Houston Post (another first for an African-American) and became head of Texas Southern's journalism department. He retired in 1989 but remained a familiar figure on campus for the next decade. His numerous honors include a week in 1997 proclaimed in his honor by Houston Mayor Fred Hofheinz; and just two weeks ago, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Houston Association of Black Journalists. He still found time to run the Informer more than a half-century after he had first walked through its doors; mentor countless journalists; be president of the Houston Breakfast Club and remain active at St. Mary of the Purification Catholic Church, where he attended services and was a member of the Knights of Peter Claver. He was preceded in death by his wife, Lucinda McElroy, who died in 1995, and two siblings, Hugh McElroy and Agatha Jones. While many are mourning the loss of a father figure, he is survived by five daughters: Madeline McElroy Johnson of Houston, from his previous marriage to the late Maxine Prudhomme; and with Lucinda, the daughters Toni McElroy, Linda McElroy, Kathleen McElroy and Sherridan Schwartz; three siblings, James McElroy, Lucy Jackson and Philip McElroy. He leaves behind five grandchildren: Kevin Johnson, Kendra Johnson, Christopher Johnson, Shana Johnson and Georgette Johnson-Whaley; three great-grandchildren, and a special friend, Doris Williams. Visitation will be Thursday, 7-9 p.m. at St. Mary of The Purification Church, 3006 Rosedale (corner of Ennis), with a rosary service starting at 8 p.m. The funeral is Friday 11 a.m. at St. Mary's, with burial to follow at Houston National Cemetery.
Published in Houston Chronicle on Oct. 12, 2006
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