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Tue, 10.03.1950

Gerald Boyd, Journalist born

Gerald Boyd

*Gerald Boyd was born on this date in 1950. He was a Black journalist and editor.

From St. Louis, his mother, who had Sickle Cell Anemia, died when he was very young. His father was a delivery truck driver and an alcoholic who moved to New York and played little role in his childhood.  Boyd and his older brother, Gary, were raised by their paternal grandmother, who was also raising their two cousins. Their maternal grandmother, Ruth, raised their younger sister in California.

A graduate of the University of Missouri, Boyd joined the New York Times in 1983 after serving as White House correspondent for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  At 28, he was also the youngest journalist chosen for a prestigious Nieman Fellowship at Harvard.  At a lecture in St. Louis, Boyd told the hometown audience, "Throughout my life, I have enjoyed both the blessing and the burden of being the first black this and the first black that, and, like many minorities and women who succeed, I've often felt alone."

The reversal of Boyd's career came in June 2003, when he and Howell Raines, the paper's executive editor, resigned after revelations of fabrications and plagiarism by a young Black reporter, Jayson Blair, ignited a firestorm of newsroom criticism against their management.  Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, said in a statement: "Gerald was a newsman. He knew how to mobilize a reporting team and surround a story so that nothing important was missed. He knew how to motivate and inspire. "And, tough and demanding as he could be, he had a huge heart. He left the paper under sad circumstances, but despite all of that, he left behind a great reservoir of respect and affection."

In the years after his resignation, Boyd wrote a weekly syndicated column for Universal Press Syndicate to help people understand how newsroom decisions are made and began working on a memoir.  Boyd's career, which took him from the end of the civil rights era to the beginning of the Internet era, was built on competitiveness and a determination to get the story right. As he rose in prominence, he became a beacon of possibility for aspiring black journalists.

Gerald Boyd, who began work as a teenage grocery bagger in St. Louis and rose to become managing editor of The New York Times, died on November 22, 2006. He was 56 and lived in Manhattan.

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