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This Day in Georgia History

February 03, 1898

Ralph McGill Born

Atlanta Constitution editor and publisher Ralph McGill was born in Soddy, Tennessee. Educated at Vanderbilt University, McGill began his career covering sports for the Nashville Banner. After leaving school he became the paper’s sports editor and also began writing political columns. It was these political writings that attracted the attention of Clark Howell, editor of the Atlanta Constitution. Howell brought McGill to Atlanta in April, 1939 to write on both sports and politics. McGill’s columns gradually became the centerpieces of the sports page (“Break O’ Days”), editorial page (“One Word More”), and finally on the front page, simply entitled “Ralph McGill.” In 1942, McGill became editor of the Constitution, and by 1961 its publisher. McGill’s columns were timely, covering subjects from the Great Depression to the Vietnam War. His was a voice of moderation, yet support, during the civil rights struggle. While never outwardly advocating integration (knowing it would cost him his southern readers), still he urged cooperation and obeying federal laws. He openly took on Governor Eugene Talmadge and the Ku Klux Klan; his editorial decrying the bombing of Jewish temple and burning of a black school in 1958 earned him a Pulitzer Prize. McGill also traveled extensively, witnessing first hand many of the European developments from Hitler’s rise to power to the Nuremburg Trials. In the post war years he traveled and did stories from Russia, Africa and the Far East, including a three week stay with U.S. troops in Vietnam. All the presidents from Truman through Johnson consulted McGill on what he witnessed on his travels. He remained active until his death in Atlanta February 2, 1969.