AUSTIN — The Headliners Foundation of Texas announced a fundraising initiative to create a new scholarship named for George A. McElroy, an award-winning Texas journalist who broke barriers during his 58-year career as a Black man in a predominantly white industry.
Born in Houston in 1922, McElroy, known to many as “Mr. Mac,” began his career at the age of 16 writing a youth column for the Houston Informer, the city’s oldest African-American newspaper. After serving during World War II, he went on to become a journalist, newspaper editor, mentor and journalism educator.
Along the way, McElroy became the first Black journalist in many settings: the first Black reporter at a Texas daily newspaper when the Houston Post hired him in 1954; the first to have a weekly column in the Post; the first Black to earn a master’s degree from the prestigious University of Missouri School of Journalism; the first Black with a degree in journalism to teach that subject in the Houston Independent School District, the first Black faculty member to teach journalism at the University of Houston; the first Black member of the Houston Press Club; and the first African American to earn the Texas Gulf Coast Press Association’s top award for his Houston Informer editorials.
In 2020, McElroy was inducted into the Texas Newspaper Hall of Fame, a function of the Texas Newspaper Foundation. He was the first African American journalist to join the ranks of outstanding leaders and mentors in the history of the Texas newspaper industry named to the Hall of Fame since its inception in 2007.
McElroy was eventually named editor of the Houston Informer, where he served as a major voice of the Black community during the Texas Southern University student demonstrations in the early 1960s, when the major news media refused to cover civil rights demonstrations. From 1977 until his retirement in 1989, he led Texas Southern’s journalism program.
During the course of his career, McElroy interviewed many notable people, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali, Fidel Castro, and six U.S. presidents.
McElroy died in 2006 at age 84, and his family is excited to see this new scholarship come to fruition. “My sisters and I agree that this is the perfect way to honor our father,” said George’s daughter, Kathleen O. McElroy, director of the School of Journalism and Media at UT Austin’s Moody College of Communication, who serves on the foundation’s board of governors.
“It’s a wonderful tribute to a man who dedicated his life to this profession, and it’s another first,” she said, pointing out that this is the first Headliners Foundation scholarship named for a person of color.
“Our goal is to raise at least $100,000 to endow this new scholarship for years to come,” said Amy Villarreal, vice president and general manager of KEYE-TV in Austin and chair of the foundation’s Strategic Development Committee, which is spearheading the fundraising effort. Villarreal said the foundation already has some significant financial commitments and has formed a committee to help raise the funds.
In addition to McElroy and Villarreal, committee members include Sonceria “Sonny” Messiah Jiles, CEO and publisher of the Houston Defender Network; Jodie Jiles, Transwestern executive and University of Texas at Austin regent; Dr. Rockell Brown Burton, interim dean of Texas Southern’s School of Communication; Dr. Jay Bernhardt, dean of the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin and ex-officio member of the foundation board of governors; Patti Ohlendorf, chair of the foundation board; and Mark Morrison, governor emeritus and former foundation board chair.
“We look forward to naming our first George McElroy Scholar next year on what would have been Mr. Mac’s 100th birthday,” Villarreal said.
Ohlendorf believes McElroy’s life and career embodied the mission of the Headliners Foundation. “This scholarship honors George’s lifelong commitment to journalism education,” she said. “The foundation’s scholarship program is an investment in the future of this industry,” she continued, “and this scholarship ensures that George McElroy’s legacy will live on through generations of Texas journalists yet to come.”
For information on how to donate to the McElroy Scholarship Endowment, contact Alison Unger at (512) 445-4520 or email@example.com.