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Ralph McGill


Ralph McGill

Ralph McGill portrait by Robert Templeton, 1984

Ralph Emerson McGill (February 5, 1898 – February 3, 1969) was an American journalist, best known as an anti-segregationist editor and publisher of the Atlanta Constitution newspaper. He was a member of the Peabody Awards Board of Jurors, serving from 1945 to 1968.[1] He won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing in 1959.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Career in journalism 2
    • Syndicated columnist 2.1
  • Final years and legacy 3
  • References 4
  • Bibliography 5
  • External links 6

Early life and education

McGill was born February 5, 1898, near Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee. He attended school at The McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee. After high school, he attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, but did not graduate because he was suspended his senior year for writing an article in the student newspaper critical of the school's administration. McGill served in the Marine Corps during World War I.[2]

Career in journalism

After the war, McGill got a job working for the sports department of the The Atlanta Constitution. Wanting to move from sports to more serious news, he got an assignment to cover the first Cuban Revolt in 1933. He also applied for and was granted a Rosenwald Fellowship in 1938, which allowed him to cover the Nazi takeover of Austria in 1938.[3] These articles earned him a spot as executive editor of the Constitution, which he used to highlight the effects of segregation.[3] In response, many angry readers sent threats and letters to McGill. Some acted on the threats and burned crosses at night on his front lawn, fired bullets into the windows of his home and left crude bombs in his mailbox.[4]

Syndicated columnist

In the late 1950s, McGill became a syndicated columnist, reaching a national audience. In 1960, McGill was the only editor of a major white southern paper to cover the passive resistance tactics used by the students involved in the Greensboro sit-ins, although eventually other papers followed his lead.[3] He became friends with Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, acting as a civil rights advisor and behind the scenes envoy to several African nations.

Final years and legacy

In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, McGill received the University of Georgia, featuring a nationally recognized journalist.

His personal papers were donated to

  • Photos at

External links

  • McGill, Ralph (1980). The Best of Ralph McGill: Selected Columns. Selected by Michael Strickland, Harry Davis, and Jeff Strickland. Atlanta: Cherokee Publishing.  
  • —————— (2009). The Fleas Come With the Dog. Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger Publishing.  
  • —————— (1984). No Place to Hide: the South and Human Rights, vol. I. Edited with an introduction by  
  • —————— (1984). No Place to Hide: the South and Human Rights, vol. II. Edited with an introduction by  
  • —————— (1992). The South and the Southerner. Athens, Georgia:  
  • —————— (1983). Southern Encounters: Southerners of Note in Ralph McGill's South. Macon, Georgia:  


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Elizabeth A. Brennan and Elizabeth C. Clarage (1999). Who's Who of Pulitzer Prize Winners. Oryx Press. p. 178.   (available on Google books)
  3. ^ a b c d  
  4. ^ Lippman, Theo (2003). "McGill and Patterson: Journalists for Justice". Virginia Quarterly Review (Autumn).  (available online)
  5. ^ King, Martin Luther (16 April 1963). "Letter from Birmingham Jail".  
  6. ^ Bynum, Russ, "Opera Tells How Georgia Racism Backfired", Associated Press, April 19, 2007. Accessed 27 January 2009.



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