- Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
International Civil Rights: Walk of Fame
Ralph McGill
Ralph Emerson McGill
1898 - 1969

Pulitzer Prize winning southern journalist Ralph McGill began writing about social injustice and the failures of the system of segregation in the late 1930s. While editor-in chief of the Atlanta Constitution (1942-1960) and then publisher of the paper (1960-1969), he continued to write columns in which he called for whites to accept the inevitable changes being brought by the civil rights movement. McGill did not initially call for the end to the concept of "separate but equal," in the South, instead, he wrote in great detail about the wide disparities between conditions in white schools and black schools of the region. He also prophetically told the thousands who read his nationally syndicated column in the late 1950s and 1960s that African American voters would one day carry considerable political clout. McGill won the Pulitzer Prize in 1959 for his book A Church, A School, a compilation of his columns about the Jewish Temple bombing in Atlanta and other hate crimes.. Throughout his career, McGill received hate mail and threatening telephone calls from whites that considered him a traitor to his race.

Ralph McGill spent his youth in the quiet countryside near Chattanooga, Tennessee. After finishing high school, he served a year in the U.S. Marines (1918-1919) and attended Vanderbilt University. His life as a crusading journalist began during his senior year at Vanderbilt when he wrote an article for the school paper critical of the university. After Vanderbilt suspended him for that article, he took a job as a reporter for the Nashville Banner newspaper and never returned to complete his college education.

In the 1960s, two U.S. presidents-John F. Kennedy and then Lyndon B. Johnson-sought the newspaper publisher's help in making U.S. efforts in civil rights known in Africa. In 2005, McGill was induced into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame.