Journalism Educator, Houston Informer, Houston Post
Hall of Fame Class of 2020
While those who remember George Albert McElroy may describe him as quiet, unassuming and unpretentious, “Mr. Mac” — the publisher of the Houston Informer and Texas Freeman — was an impactful journalist, teacher and community leader.
McElroy died in 2006 at age 84, a warrior against racial discrimination and a mentor and inspiration to generations of young journalists. In 1938, at age 16, McElroy got his start in the newspaper business, writing a youth column for the Houston Informer, the first African-American newspaper published west of the Mississippi River. From 1940 to 1948, he served in the U.S. Navy, stationed primarily in Asia, during World War II. He served as a U.S. Air Force information specialist at Ellington Field near Houston from 1950 to 1952. He went on to serve in veterans’ organizations, including the Burma-China-India group, and in 1973 was honored by Gov. Dolph Briscoe as an admiral in the Texas Navy.
Having been denied enrollment by the University of Texas at Austin, McElroy enrolled at Texas State University for Negroes, now Texas Southern University, and majored in journalism, graduating in 1956. He taught journalism at Houston’s Yates High School from 1957 to 1969, leading his students to unprecedented awards in journalism for an African-American school. McElroy was the first African-American with a journalism degree to teach that subject in the Houston Independent School District. In 1970 he became the first African-American student to earn a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri.
In 1954, McElroy became the Houston Post’s first African-American sports writer and in 1956, he became the newspaper’s first African-American columnist. He served as head of Texas Southern University’s journalism department, retiring in 1989 but remaining a familiar figure on campus for the ensuing 10 years. He also was a journalism instructor for the University of Houston in the early 1970s. Many of his students at both universities went on to successful careers.
One of McElroy’s five daughters, Dr. Kathleen McElroy, was an editor for The New York Times and is director of the University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism.
In the 1970s, Houston Mayor Fred Hofheinz proclaimed a week in McElroy’s honor. McElroy received a lifetime achievement award from the Houston Association of Black Journalists while still running The Informer. He was the first African-American to be a member of the Houston Press Club and went on to serve as the organization’s president. He was the first African-American to win first place for his Houston Informer editorials from the Texas Gulf Coast Press Association.
As editor of the Houston Informer, McElroy was a major voice of the African-American community, and during Texas Southern University student demonstrations in the early 1960s, when major news media refused to publicize civil rights news events. He was active at St. Mary of the Purification Catholic Church.